Ferrari, and in particular Sebastian Vettel has been setting off alarm bells at Mercedes according to F1 legend Niki Lauda.
Lauda, who is currently working as a non-executive chairman for Mercedes, has admitted that Vettel has him and his team worried.
Vettel and Lewis Hamilton exchanged victories in Melbourne and Shanghai, but it was the German’s victory in Bahrain last weekend that has the former three-time world champion Lauda most concerned.
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"The alarm bells are ringing with us," he told the Osterreich newspaper, via Autoweek. "Those who win in Bahrain have a certain buffer for the next three races."
While both Hamilton and his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas looked to blame their loss in Bahrain on the fact that they were using Pirelli tyres, which aren’t perfectly suited to warm weather, the general consensus seemed to be that Ferrari and Vettel had simply outclassed the defending champions.
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"The Vettel factor can decide the world championship this year," Vettel's first F1 boss, Gerhard Berger, told Sport Bild.
The former F1 driver admitted he is surprised with Ferrari's pace so far in 2017.
"I would have lost every bet before the season," Berger said, "because I doubted that Ferrari would really beat Mercedes."
Red Bull's Helmut Marko agrees
Another of Vettel's former chiefs, Helmut Marko of Red Bull, agrees.
"Sebastian is at one with his car," Marko said. "He is constantly on the limit, not making the smallest mistake and always knowing what to do. This is pure driving pleasure for him. Like this, Vettel is very hard to beat - especially when Mercedes is making mistakes."
Vettel's eyeing a title
Vettel won four Driver’s championships in a row between 2010 and 2013 and is laying the groundworks for another title charge this season.
Ferrari were the outstanding team during testing in Barcelona before the start of the new season, and back in March, Bottas even admitted that he wasn’t confident that Mercedes were the team to beat, whilst simultaneously praising Ferrari’s recent progress.
Should Vettel manage to land his fifth world championship this season he would become only the eighth man to win the Driver’s championship with more than one team.
Lauda himself achieved the feat having won in 1975 and 1977 driving for Ferrari and again in 1984 driving for McLaren.
Who will win the Driver's championship in 2017? Let us know in the comments section below!
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