Red Bull and Mercedes look to set for a battle this weekend in Bahrain, with Helmut Marko convinced the gap to the Silver Arrows has been closed.
Max Verstappen topped both practice sessions on Friday, a welcome sight for the Milton Keynes outfit following their stellar performance in winter testing. However Marko is waiting to see what Mercedes do in qualifying before making any definitive statements.
"We are definitely optimistic about our long runs," Marko told RacingNews365.com and others. "We don't know how far Mercedes can turn up the engine, but we hope we can battle it out in qualifying."
"We have a solid car that has performed well. The gap to Hamilton and Mercedes is small.
At this time it looks as though Verstappen also has the upper hand on teammate Sergio Perez, though the gap isn't as big on long runs.
"In sector 1 Perez keeps losing time to Verstappen," Marko added. "Perez’s long run pace is good, but the problem is still the qualifying lap."