Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne says he expects the team to improve next year after a dispiriting end to their 2017 title challenge.
Sebastian Vettel was neck-and-neck with eventual champion Lewis Hamilton until Ferrari’s season imploded in the space of three races in the autumn.
Marchionne said the team’s collapse was “embarrassing and unpleasant”.
“In 2018 I expect a lot more from the team,” he said. “I have no doubt we will be fighting for the title again.”
Marchionne, speaking at Ferrari’s traditional Christmas lunch, said he believed Vettel had “learned” from his errors and would not make the same mistakes again.
Vettel cost himself critical points by deliberately driving into Hamilton behind the safety car at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix and then by triggering a multi-car pile-up at the start in Singapore that took out both Ferraris.
Marchionne added that Vettel was “very emotional” and described his errors as “like the fouls of a great footballer who is under pressure”.
“With a competitive car, the responsibility is his,” he said. “You don’t win four championships if you are not a champion.”
Marchionne also described Mercedes’ revival after the summer break, when Hamilton went on a run of five wins and a second place in six races, as “a nuisance”.
And he explained that in addition to the engine problems that cost Vettel points in Malaysia and Japan, the team had also had problems with the final development planned for the power-unit, which never made it to the track.
But he added: “We can settle the accounts in 2018.”
‘They are playing with fire’
Marchionne repeated his threat that Ferrari could pull out of F1 if it does not like the direction of new owners Liberty Media, and also expressed surprise that former Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn, now F1’s head of motorsports, was “looking for ways to fight against the DNA of F1”.
“We are not interested in making cars all the same and simple and cheap engines like Nascar,” Marchionne added. “If anything, the real problem is that there is no overtaking and F1 needs more exciting races.”
He said F1 needed “decisions for the future that will satisfy everyone and I think we will make it in time”.
But he added: “Otherwise Ferrari will leave. If they believe that we are bluffing, they are playing with fire.”
Ferrari’s 2018 F1 car will be unveiled online on 22 February.
The car will then be taken to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya for a ‘filming day’, on which mileage is limited by regulation, before the official start of pre-season testing on 26 February.