Max Verstappen is unsure of exactly where Red Bull will be in the pecking order in 2022, but reckons that Ferrari and Mercedes will be right up there this year.
Verstappen and teammate Sergio Perez set 224 laps between them in the opening two days of the second test in Bahrain and, in a similar vein to Barcelona, have not been hitting the top of the timing screens an awful lot so far.
This is likely by design as they seek to prevent other teams from seeing their full potential, and if it is indeed a ploy to divert attentions elsewhere, it would be appear to be working well.
Mercedes and Ferrari have gone back and forth in recent weeks tipping each other to be the best on the grid this year, but an insignificant amount of focus has been placed on Red Bull’s performance, which is exactly how they would have wanted it.
Nobody will be quite aware of anyone’s pace at this stage anyway as teams tone down the engines and relatively light programmes, and this is compounded by the fact that we are entering an unprecedent regulatory era in the sport.
As a result, Verstappen has no idea what the formbook will look like, but backs up advisor Dr Helmut Marko’s suggestion that teams will be upgrading their cars before the first race next weekend in a bid to finish the new challengers “as late as possible.”
“It’s difficult to judge the others. Some teams still get some upgrades before the first race,” he told Sky Germany.
“It‘s difficult to say. So far, Ferrari look strong. Mercedes will always be there. For us, it looks positive.”
Since claiming Red Bull’s “most important” title success last season, the 24-year-old has been rewarded with a new contract that keeps him at Milton Keynes until the end of 2028, and the decision to stay was a no-brainer.
“At the end, it was an easy decision,” he added.
“For a long time, I feel good in the team. That‘s important for delivering good results. And it‘s also important to have fun, which I have here. It fits since a long time. Red Bull is like a second family.”
He is uncertain as to whether he will want to stay in the sport when he next contract expires, and will evaluate his position in just under seven years’ time.
“At the end of my contract, I am 31. Then I did many years in F1. Let‘s see if I will continue or not after that,” he explained.
The Dutchman is to line up alongside Sergio Perez once again in 2022, and the 32-year-old is out of contract at the end of this season.