Lewis Hamilton believes that Ferrari could secure a 1-2, or perhaps even Red Bull, if the 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix were to be held this weekend, as he ruled out suggestions that Mercedes are "sandbagging".
When all teams but Haas left the track on Friday evening, Ferrari were back on top, with Carlos Sainz's fastest lap topping the timing sheets once again, just as their car did repeatedly in Barcelona.
Besides some intense porpoising moments, Ferrari's new F1-75 looks comfortable on track and has consistently contributed some of the fastest laps of the test so far.
Their best lap time was beaten by Haas and Kevin Magnussen late in the day, but there is no doubt that Ferrari look strong.
Mercedes, meanwhile, have been some way behind in terms of their one-lap pace, although it is not known whether or not they have been running with a higher fuel load than their rivals to mask their true speed.
Hamilton: It's not going to be a smooth run
Straight out of the car, Hamilton complained of the wind and the bumps in Bahrain that hindered his afternoon session in the car.
"I think everyone's probably in a similar boat," said the Mercedes driver. "Some have managed to utilise it or get around it in a better way."
He added: "I'm confident in the team here, and the team back at the factory, that we'll figure it out. But it's definitely not going to be a smooth run."
When asked who he felt would win were the Grand Prix held this weekend, he answered: "I think Ferrari. From what I can see today, Ferrari would probably be getting a 1-2, or maybe Red Bull."
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Hamilton: Mercedes are not sandbagging
With Mercedes seemingly over half-a-second down on the Ferrari over a single lap, plenty have accused the multiple World Champions of sandbagging, hiding the true pace of their car to lure their rivals into a false sense of security.
If they are, it has certainly shifted the weight of expectation, with all eyes now on Ferrari.
But Hamilton has denied those accusations, suggesting that what fans are seeing is the real Mercedes car.
"Yeah, I mean, we'd be really, really, really good if we were having all these oversteer moments and having this tacky driving just to hide our cars," said Hamilton, with a laugh.
"It's not the case, no. We definitely have things that we're trying to get through.
"I think, as I said, the others are struggling less, but who knows? Maybe when we get to next week, we'll have a better understanding [of the car]."
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