Ferrari has been sandbagging in testing with Toto Wolff confident the Scuderia can “probably gain another second” when it turns up the engine.
Sebastian Vettel grabbed Ferrari’s first P1 of the pre-season at the Circuit de Catalunya on Thursday.
However, the German’s 1:16.841 was over a full second down on Valtteri Bottas’ best from last Friday, a 1:15.732.
Mercedes motorsport boss Wolff believes Ferrari has yet to turn the wick up.
“You can see what Ferrari is doing compared to Alfa Romeo or Haas,” he said.
“Ferrari’s top speed is far from what it currently show, they can probably gain another second.
“The most important thing is to try and guess where everyone is.
“We don’t know the fuel loads either so you can’t tell a lot from lap times.”
Ferrari, though, is adamant Mercedes is the team to beat, especially with Red Bull saying the Brackley squad’s dual axis steering system is worth “two-tenths” per lap.
Wolff is happy with the new Mercedes innovation, which allows the drivers to change the toe of the front wheels.
That improves cornering, helps with straightline speed and reduces tyre wear.
Thejudge13 quotes Wolff as having told Auto Bild: “Our approach is unchanged, we still assume that we’re not good enough and therefore have to compensate.”
He is, however, “proud of the performance” of the new W11.
“It is stable and makes a good impression even in the windy conditions here [in Barcelona].
“So we seem to have a solid base for the start of the season. At least we’ll have a base that we can build on to improve.”