Mercedes feared strong early assault from Ferrari in China

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Mercedes boss Toto Wolff admits he was expecting Ferrari to challenge harder in the opening laps of the Chinese Grand Prix.

Having dominated the race in Bahrain two weeks prior, it was thought, even by the German manufacturer, that the Scuderia would again be the team to beat in Shanghai.

Even after locking out the front row in qualifying, Wolff anticipated that the main strength of the 2019 Prancing Horse would be a big threat.

“I believed their straight-line advantage, especially in the opening laps, would be a danger for us and when DRS was enabled, even more,” he explained.

“[Instead,] we didn’t see them coming anywhere near.

“I think our exit onto the main straight out of Turn 13 was very good. We were able to put a little gap there so they were never close enough, but it came as a surprise.”

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Questions have been asked about the Ferrari car and whether their focus on engine power and low drag is costing them too much time in the corners.

Then there has also been the internal situation between Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel with team orders.

“When you have a team as strong as Mercedes to beat there is no point playing games," double F1 champion Mika Hakkinen wrote in his Unibet column.

"Ferrari needs to stop focusing on themselves and start concentrating on beating the competition.

“In the battle to beat Mercedes no one should care whether it is Leclerc or Vettel who wins the race.

“I think Leclerc was right to be upset because the subsequent strategy managed him back into fifth position, behind Max Verstappen’s Red Bull.

“Forget about team orders, concentrate on the team winning.”