'Mercedes is afraid of us,' says Ferrari's Marchionne

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Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne believes that the tide has well and truly turned in the team's battle with Mercedes.

Marchionne said that Ferrari were no longer in the shadow of their German rivals. He added that now it was the Silver Arrows who were worried and on the back foot in the 2017 world championship.

"We have made significant progress," the Ferrari president is quoted by Italian media, including La Repubblica newspaper.

"Scuderia Ferrari has worked hard to prepare for the 2017 season, and the first results are encouraging.

"Ferrari is competitive once again and feared by our adversaries in Stuttgart," he added.

Ferrari's performance so far this season, with two wins for championship leader Sebastian Vettel, is still rather a surprise. The team failed to win a single Grand Prix in 2016 while Mercedes won all but two races.

"Some would call our recovery miraculous compared to 2016," Marchionne agreed, adding that the team was taking nothing for granted. "We started well, but we continue to work."

"We respect our opponents and do not underestimate them, especially Mercedes."

Marchionne's analysis was mirrored by none other than Mercedes' own Niki Lauda this week. "Ferrari is clearly ahead," he told Austrian media this week.

"I admit to being surprised," former world champion Jacques Villenueve told Italian online media. "Ferrari is doing a great job and Seb can handle the pressure."

Former Ferrari driver Felipe Massa has admitted he is also surprised and impressed by Ferrari's sharp resurgence this year.

"Ferrari is doing something that nobody expected this year,” Massa said. “Nobody expected to see Ferrari doing what they are doing, and that is really nice.

“In November, if you'd asked me, I would have say the only team that can fight Mercedes is Red Bull. But Red Bull did not do the right car and Ferrari did."

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