F1: Vettel's Ferrari stoke up rivalry with Hamilton's Mercedes-GP ahead of Italian Grand Prix
Champions Mercedes-GP are struggling to cope with being outperformed and beaten on the track, according to Ferrari team chief Maurizio Arrivabene.
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s emotionally-charged Italian Grand Prix on his team’s home circuit, Arrivabene stoked up the rivalry and tensions between the two top teams.
His Ferrari team showed their comprehensive power and straight-line speed advantage when Sebastian Vettel stormed to victory in last Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix, beating defending champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes into a distant second place by 11 seconds.
"They are not used to this," Arrivabene said. "We were silent. We took punches left and right and we got up. We are used to it and they are not."
His comments came in reference to Hamilton's suggestion that Ferrari's cars had "tricky" parts to assist their performance-setting speed. The Briton explained that he was not suggesting that there was anything illegal or irregular being used by Ferrari.
"I read many articles that talk about our guys who work so well on the car, but then, in the team, I remind everyone that we are not ahead [in the championship], that we are chasing and so we must keep our heads down."
He added that Ferrari were ready to cope with the pressure of expectation that comes with arriving at the Italian GP with momentum on their side.
"For us, it would be a dream and a gift to give to all of Italy, but the responsibility has always been there. This year, we have more pressure, because we won the last race, but this is racing – we are used to it.
"And we are still a young team so I don’t guarantee anything for the rest of the season. I just know that everyone wants this."
'No extra pressure'
Vettel's victory cut Hamilton's lead in the title race to 17 points – a margin that could be overhauled in Sunday's race if the German wins and the Briton fails to make any significant impact or is forced to retire.
"It's a recovery, yes, but we're still behind," Arrivabene added. "Now, we have to put it in our heads that if you win a race, you have not won the championship, and that is our goal.
"We must put pressure on Mercedes – they are not accustomed to it.”
The Italian team's drivers said they felt no additional pressure because driving for Ferrari always brought a high level of expectation for success and high standards of performance.
"No, we have no extra pressure," Vettel said. "We know our car the best and we know at what parts of the track and at what point in the year it is strong.
"We know we have a good car now for more or less every track. We have a good package, but we have to work and make it work for us. We want to do our thing and be able to fight for first position and a podium finish on Sunday – that is what you want as a driver.
"It is not healthy to over-think."
Raikkonen said: "It is just the pressure we put on ourselves for what we want to achieve, but it is very close. In certain conditions and on certain circuits, for one team or the other, the differences are very small – and the results.
"We can do our best only and then see what happens."
Hamilton conspicuous by absence at Monza
World championship leader Lewis Hamilton was conspicuous by his absence Thursday after being granted a waiver by Mercedes and Formula One for his Italian Grand Prix media duties.
The four-time world champion was granted his leave for the day for an "unavoidable personal commitment" according to a Mercedes spokesman.
Hamilton is set to arrive at the Autodromo Nazionale at Monza late Thursday evening ahead of this weekend's potentially-critical race on Ferrari's home soil.
The media schedule for Thursday was issued without Hamilton in the main set-piece pre-race interviews, but his title rival Sebastian Vettel was included ahead of his team's home event.
Hamilton was bitterly disappointed that Ferrari out-powered his Mercedes at last Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix where Vettel was triumphant and the Englishman finished 11 seconds behind him.
Hamilton leads Vettel in the title race by 17 points.
Lewis Hamilton v Sebastian Vettel: who will be crowned F1 champion?
Haas decline to sign deal that benefits Force India
Team boss Guenther Steiner confirmed on Thursday that Haas have declined to sign a deal that would enable the re-born Force India team to have a right to earn prize money.
Steiner said the American team wanted further clarification from Formula One's American owners, Liberty Media, explaining why the Silverstone-based outfit, taken over by Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll, should receive special treatment.
"What we need to understand is, with the new licence, why there is a reason not to be treated [like a team] with a new licence," he said.
"That is what we want to understand - and we cannot explain that to ourselves, as someone needs to explain it to us, and that hasn’t happened yet."
Talking to reporters, he was asked directly if Haas had signed up to the new deal for Force India.
"No," he said. "With the new licence, we didn't sign up for that. We still need to understand why it should be different."
Last weekend in Belgium, the Force India team finished fifth and sixth after a rain-aided lockout of the second row of the grid, in their first outing since being bought out of administration.
It was a "fairy tale" result that was celebrated with glee by the team.
Team boss Otmar Szafnauer was delighted, also, by the agreement that he believed was unanimous in the pit lane to allow the new Force India team to retain the old team’s prize money.
"The remaining nine teams have signed, so to speak, a document that enables us to keep the money that Sahara Force India had earned in years past," he said, not knowing at the time that Haas had refused to sign up.