Ferrari are on the cusp of a much better season in Formula 1, according to the Italian marque's former chief engineer Toni Cuquerella.
Winter testing has indicated that Ferrari might even be ready to take on Mercedes in 2017, but Cuquerella told Spanish newspaper El Pais that the real picture will only begin to emerge in Melbourne.
"What is clear is that they have made a significant step in quality," he said.
"Whether it is enough to compete with or beat Mercedes, I still don't know. But I do know that they will not be as far away as they were at this point last year."
Cuquerella, who was at Ferrari as recently as 2016 but will now be a commentator for Spanish TV, said that Ferrari's boost has been thanks to a "great investment in development".
"We are talking about an injection of hundreds of millions of euros in tools that allow the testing of most parts of the car," he revealed. "Ferrari realised this is the deficit they had to Mercedes.
"The results of the winter were strong enough for me to think that they will do well, although I dare not quantify that improvement. They may be four tenths behind or two tenths ahead, but at the very least, Ferrari is serious now."
The season-opening Australian Grand Prix takes place this Sunday.