RED THIRD ROW IN SPAIN: Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel will start the 2016 Spanish GP in fifth and sixth place respectively. Image: AP / Emilio Morenatti
Spain - Niki Lauda has hit out at the pressure Ferrari's president Sergio Marchionne is putting on the faltering Maranello team.
Heading into the Barcelona round, Ferrari and Fiat chief Marchionne had said he expected the team to immediately end its winning drought in 2016.
But the red cars were actually outpaced in qualifying not just by the normally-dominant Mercedes, but also the charging Red Bulls.
Lauda, Mercedes' team chairman but also a former Ferrari champion, told German television RTL: "The fact that Ferrari is so far behind is very surprising. The problem with Ferrari is that they are under pressure - the more Marchionne calls for wins, the more the Italians make mistakes."
Sebastian Vettel, normally Ferrari's lead driver, even trailed teammate Kimi Raikkonen on Saturday, but insisted the pressure is not getting to the team.
Vettel told the Spanish daily Marca: "He (Marchionne) talks to us internally, it is not just what is written in the newspapers. So this does not affect us in the way you may think.
"Tomorrow (Sunday) he will come and wish us luck. Yes, he is our president, but also a big fan who wants Ferrari to succeed. We all have ambitious goals and do not need any warnings."
'Nobody has to tell me to win'
Asked if he can deal with the pressure at Ferrari, the German told Spain's El Pais: "I am always asked about the pressure, but in Red Bull I had Dr Marko who can be quite demanding!
Vettel added: "The pressure I have, I put on myself and it is much greater than anything else coming from outside. Nobody has to tell me to win."
Boss Maurizio Arrivabene, meanwhile, has been the subject of rumours in Barcelona but he also backed Marchionne's right to demand that Ferrari wins.
"I would be worried if a president came to us and said we should go to Russia or Barcelona and finish second. I don't think Enzo Ferrari would have said such things either," he told Italy's Autosprint.
Like Lauda, Alain Prost is another famous former Ferrari driver who knows the pressures of driving for the Scuderia.
Prost said: "It's never very stable. You can see that today, with the rumours about what is happening."