Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto has maintained that his team remain the outsiders in the race to claim the big Formula 1 World Championship prizes during 2022, despite suggestions from Lewis Hamilton that the Italian outfit are leading the way heading into the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Hamilton's comments came as he complained that his Mercedes was lagging behind the cars of their rivals, presenting the Brackley-based team with plenty of work to do before they go racing for real next weekend.
The seven-time World Champion claimed that Ferrari could well have claimed a one-two victory if the upcoming season-opener was held a week earlier, adding that Red Bull would also be in the fight, with Mercedes behind both.
But despite Mercedes seemingly struggling to tame their W13 car during testing, Ferrari boss Binotto does not agree with Hamilton's assessment of the post-testing pecking order.
Binotto: Red Bull and Mercedes remain the top teams
Binotto explained: "In terms of performance, it has been very difficult to judge.
"I still believe that both Red Bull and Mercedes are the main [competitors]. I think they're the ones that won last year.
"They both [have] World Champion drivers, they have proven to be very strong teams in the past.
"They had a second advantage at the end of last year. I think there is no reason why they're not the favourites today. So for me, [they are] the favourites."
He added: "For us, we've been focusing on ourselves. It has been six positive days because we're running consistently, learning a lot from the car, getting a lot of data, cross-correlating with [the team] back at Maranello with the simulator.
"That was the first objective and I think we achieved it. It's a matter of staying focused on ourselves and trying to be the best."
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"I think, as Ferrari, we should try to be at least outsiders, try to be as close as we can [to Mercedes and Red Bull]," Binotto continued.
"If we look at the performance so far, [it is] so difficult to judge. Certainly, I hope that we will be very close at the end altogether.
"When we look at the last seasons, 2017 has been a good season, 2018 has been a good season as well. Since 2020 it has been a very difficult one for us and for 2021 most of the car was frozen as well.
"I'm pretty sure that team is a great team and can be a strong team. I am pretty sure that we can prove once again this year that we can be back to being competitive, but that's where we are focused on and there is much to do.
"I think it's a very long season. Bahrain is the first race but there will be another 22 or 21 races after it and I think that developments through the season will be a key element as well, so let's see."
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