Mercedes boss Toto Wolff admitted that he was surprised to see the extent of Ferrari's struggles at the recently concluded Italian Grand Prix and believes they have taken a step back compared to the progress they showed at the Belgian Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton cruised to victory in Monza on Sunday (3 September) followed by his teammate Valtteri Bottas as the Silver Arrows team asserted their dominance as expected. Sebastian Vettel did manage to finish third after starting the race fifth, but was a mammoth 36 seconds behind the race winner.
The Ferraris struggled to match the pace set by the Mercedes duo, which was not the most surprising part according to Wolff. Daniel Ricciardo finished fourth ahead of the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen despite starting 13th and the Australian would have caught Vettel if there was more time and that magnified the struggles of the Italian team at their home Grand Prix.
The Maranello-based team were expected to put up a better fight even though it was understood that Mercedes will dominate at Monza owing to it being a power hungry circuit. But Ferrari's showing at Spa Francorchamps the previous weekend where they matched the reigning champions in terms of race pace suggested they had made a step forward, but it was not to be.
Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene was at a loss to explain his team's struggles and cut a frustrated figure after the race. Wolff understands the reason for his frustration as they came into the race as potential challengers to Mercedes' dominance at their home in recent seasons.
"Emotions run high and if you have a bad day it is not easy to swallow," Wolff said about Arrivabene's frustrations, as quoted by ESPN. "For me, it looks like this weekend Ferrari has a step back, somehow. I think we were very solid but they haven't performed in the way everyone expected. Red Bull starting from the back of the grid, almost finishing P3 -- there's just something that is out of sync here, something is not how it should be so I can understand they're upset about it.
Ferrari, however, have a chance to get back to winning ways when they arrive at Singapore for the next race of the season on 17 September. The tight and twisted nature of the track will suit the Italian team's chassis similar to the Monaco Grand Prix this year.
Red Bull Racing will also be a contender in Singapore, while the Silver Arrows team could struggle to continue their winning run. Mercedes won the race last season, and Wolff believes that the team have managed to improve the car to suit the high downforce characteristics of the circuit, but admits that it could be one of the more difficult weekends of the season for his team.
"Singapore has never the best of places for us in the past. We were extremely delighted to win the race last year after we had such a difficult time in 2015. I still do believe that there are certain characteristics in a track that suit a car or not – and you can see this year that the slow, twisty circuits have rather suited Red Bull and Ferrari – and lots of high-speed downforce was good for us.
"But I think there is no pattern that you can't break. The more we clock mileage with these new cars, the more we learn about them. Having said that, I still believe that Singapore will be one of the more difficult weekends for us, more so than for example Monza, Spa or Silverstone. But we will try to understand the best possible way to be successful there," the Mercedes motorsport chief added, as quoted on the Formula 1 official site.