Ferrari has caught up with the other manufacturers in terms of engine performance, according to team boss Mattia Binotto.
In 2019, an engine advantage became a major disadvantage for the Maranello team after it was accused of ‘cheating’ and forced by the FIA to make key design tweaks.
Finally, that advantage appears to have been restored for 2022.
“In the tests we did an analysis and we are at the level of the others – certainly not behind them and perhaps a little in front,” Binotto said, referring to Ferrari versus engine rivals Mercedes, Honda and Renault.
Ferrari is even expected to be the fastest overall car this weekend in Bahrain.
“Red Bull seemed very strong to me,” Binotto insists. “One will be ahead of us and another behind, I don’t know, but I think we will be at a level where we can compete.”
Charles Leclerc finished last week’s Bahrain test believing he may be a favourite for early 2022 victories, but he told the media on Thursday that he is now “a little more pessimistic”.
“I have the impression that we are behind Red Bull,” he said.
“We’re not talking about a second like last year, but they’re favourites for me. You could see their upgrade with the sidepods gave them considerable progress.”
Many insiders think Mercedes are the third force, but Leclerc thinks the reigning constructors’ champions “haven’t shown their true potential at all”.
McLaren’s Lando Norris, though, thinks Ferrari is deliberately playing down its advantage.
“You might expect that,” he said, “but from the first lap in Barcelona they were almost always on top.
“It was only on the last day when Red Bull came with those upgrades.”
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff agrees, telling Kronen Zeitung: “If I had to guess, I would say Red Bull is clearly ahead, then Ferrari.
“I don’t know how far away we are but until Saturday it’s just crystal ball reading.”
Then, if Mercedes is clearly beaten on Sunday, Wolff says there will be no panic.
“If we’re 30 points behind after four races, nothing is lost,” he insists. “It’s also fun to be able to turn things around.”
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