Max Verstappen is another driver not buying the story from Mercedes that they are miles off the pace heading into the 2022 season opener.
Mercedes finished the three-day test in Bahrain with the fifth fastest time – a 1:32.759 set by George Russell on the C3 tyre – and the message from Russell, Lewis Hamilton and the rest of the Mercedes team is that you cannot consider them title favourites heading into this campaign.
Russell has insisted the performance “is not there” with the W13, while Hamilton stated over the course of the three-day event that he has a Ferrari 1-2 at the top of his pecking order if the Bahrain Grand Prix was to take place today.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz dismissed this as “typical” behaviour from Mercedes and Verstappen has also heard this story before, so isn’t ruling the Silver Arrows out by any means as he prepares to defend his World Championship title.
That's it for testing, learned a lot ✊
One week to go, can't wait to get started ⏱ pic.twitter.com/RTMNX6UXeF
— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) March 12, 2022
“If someone is doing well or a team that everyone expects to do well, then it’s: ‘Oh no, we’re definitely not the favourite’,” Verstappen said, as quoted by Autosport.
“And then a week later, when things do go well, all of a sudden it’s: ‘Oh no, but we turned it around completely within a week. Not normal, unbelievable work. Thanks to all people in the factory!’
“And they were still very strong during the first race weekend [of 2021 after a similarly low-key testing performance.”
While Verstappen certainly isn’t erasing Mercedes out of the title picture, it appears he is placing a little more focus on the “consistently fast” Ferrari.
“That shows that they clearly have a stable car at the moment,” Verstappen continued.
“It just looks good for them, they have had very few problems as well. We will see next week who is fastest, but so far they have had a very good test.
“The last two years weren’t great for them, so you automatically start looking at this season a bit earlier than some of the other teams.
“It’s more than normal that they started earlier than us on the 2022 car and that’s OK as well.
“In the end, with these new cars, the development rate during the season is the most important thing.”