2016 world champion, Nico Rosberg, has made the bold prediction that Mercedes will beat Ferrari to second in the Constructors’ Standings in 2022.
Ferrari and Charles Leclerc made a flying start to the year, with the Monegasque taking victory in Bahrain and Melbourne, while Max Verstappen won in Saudi Arabia.
Leclerc had led home a Ferrari one-two from Carlos Sainz in the opening round, so the Scuderia looked to be on course for a strong title challenge.
Mercedes, meanwhile, were struggling to find consistency as Sir Lewis Hamilton and George Russell contended with horrible bouncing and “porpoising.”
The Ferrari and Red Bull quartet have won all of the opening 15 rounds of the season between them, but Verstappen and team-mate Sergio Perez have taken 11 home for the Austrian side.
A series of errors and reliability failures from the Scuderia have brought Mercedes back into play in the battle for second in the championship, but more prominent have been the Silver Arrows’ improvements in their race pace.
Both Mercedes and Red Bull have picked up in that department since the beginning of the year, evidenced by Red Bull’s 10 wins since they arrived at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix with an upgraded car.
Russell and Hamilton have managed 12 podiums between them this year, nine of which have arrived in the last eight races, and they now find themselves just 30 points behind Ferrari in the hunt for second.
The title has all but been wrapped up by Red Bull, who lead by 135 points, and Rosberg believes that Ferrari now need to start looking behind them due to the threat from his old team.
“It’s a difficult one, if I put money [on it] I would go for…let’s go for Mercedes, just to keep it exciting,” he said during Sky Sports’ coverage of the Dutch Grand Prix, which was won by Verstappen ahead of Russell and Leclerc.
“You know, I really think they’re going to ramp it up in the last couple of races and really give them a run for the money at Ferrari.”
The Italian Grand Prix will be held for the 72nd time at the Monza Circuit this weekend, and good performance there is dependent on straight-line speed.
The need for power and a sound chassis on the straights is even greater than it is at Spa, where Mercedes, certainly in their qualifying pace, struggled.
As a result, Rosberg believes Russell and Hamilton will struggle to match the pace of Red Bull and Ferrari this weekend.
“Monza goes back towards this Spa package where we saw how quick Red Bull and Max Verstappen were,” he added.
“So, I would definitely consider him the absolute top favourite there and Ferrari probably second.”
The 37-year-old sees no issue with his former team’s ability to perform in the corners, but they lack too much in a straight line.
“Unfortunately, Mercedes, they have this issue that they have such a big drag going down straights,” explained Rosberg.
“They have the same downforce in the corners as a Ferrari or Red Bull but so much more drag than them going in the straights, and that’s costing them so much lap time when you go to a track like Monza.”
“So, I don’t I don’t think Mercedes are going to be in the hunt for win there.”
Rosberg won the Italian Grand Prix in 2016 on his way to his world championship success.