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Ferrari and Mercedes absolutely equal says Marchionne

Sergio Marchionne has backed Ferrari to remain toe-to-toe with Mercedes for the rest of the 2017 championship battle.

The Italian team had a bad qualifying at its home circuit at Monza -- ironically perhaps the least-suitable track for this year's Ferrari package.

But president Marchionne said: "Compared to when I was here a year ago, the difference is night and day.

"The guys are extremely motivated and the renewal of Vettel and Raikkonen gives a clear perspective to the team.

"We have done a great job of improving the car and are convinced that it is absolutely equal to Mercedes."

However, Marchionne admitted that Monza has not been a great weekend for Ferrari so far.

"I have talked about it with Sebastian and Kimi," said the Canadian-Italian, "but the most interesting and encouraging point is that we have a car development plan for the rest of the year.

"It's not just about one race. Monza is the hardest of the races remaining but if we look at the development from here until the end we have a series of mechanical and aerodynamic changes that will improve the car and also be a solid foundation for 2018," Marchionne added.

"So we cannot be happier."

That is despite the fact a political row is bubbling behind the scenes, after Mercedes allegedly broke a 'gentleman's agreement' and now has a fourth engine this year that can burn oil as fuel at a greater rate than Ferrari.

Marchionne plays it down.

"The political battle with Mercedes is always there. The important thing is to keep it on a civil level," he said.

"The choice made by Toto (Wolff) could have its consequences because they must do the rest of the season with the engines they have, while we have the freedom to work on engine development for the rest of the year and introduce it when we need."