Scuderia FerrariSebastian VettelKimi Raikkonen
2015 Constructors' Standings - 2nd

Second fastest out there at worst, a thorn in the side of Mercedes at current best. If the package is reliable and consistent enough, Vettel - and maybe Raikkonen - can pressure, but question marks remain over both

Whether you stand by the suggestion that Ferrari autonomously created its own leap forward in 2015 or whether you buy into Bernie Ecclestone's hint that it may have been shuffled along a bit by Mercedes to alleviate the negativity of their dominance, Ferrari appear to have gone more off-piste with its 2016 creation, the SF16-H.

Visually striking and technically interesting, if Mercedes did provide a leg up in 2015, Ferrari have seemingly - helmed by James Allison - taken itself into its own direction for 2016. Early indications are as promising as they were last year, the SF16-H proving comfortably quicker across the board on qualifying and race runs.

With drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen professing early on that the SF16-H represents an improvement over its three-time race winning SF15-T predecessor, hopes have been raised of a Mercedes challenge, but while the margin to benchmark seemed fairly modest - particularly in the context of its big gains a year earlier - neither gave the impression they have a Mercedes-beater on their hands. There are some concerns about reliability as well, not just because of a few Ferrari stoppages, but customer teams suffering their own Ferrari-supplied technical issues. The manufacturer insists they are niggles only but it certainly limited the mileage when it mattered for all concerned.

Of course, Mercedes' prediction skewing refusal not to use the softer compounds in testing has created a bit of a mystery to unravel in Australia, and while many still feel it will be Mercedes up front when proper action gets underway, there is a quiet confidence that the SF16-H - particularly in a revitalised Vettel's hands - could produce something rather special.

Indeed, Vettel comes into 2016 probably more confident than any other driver after a career-defining 2015 campaign that silenced doubters, won him fans and showcased his ability to not only out-perform a car but do so each time he got behind the wheel. If Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg are going to feel a challenge from anyone, it's hard to look beyond the German, even if the SF16-H doesn't quite live up to lofty expectations in race trim.

By contrast, Kimi Raikkonen is under pressure - even if the typically sanguine Finn insists he isn't - to up his game this year or be shown the door. Though a big improvement on 2014, in isolation Raikkonen's season was no more than average, mediocrity that has earned him a pay cut and stiff targets. Indeed, though it is hard tell if Raikkonen is focused on the job in hand, he knows there is much to prove this year but 'revivals' is something he has become remarkably good at in the past.

 

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