Max Verstappen has joked that Mercedes will be "dead last" with their "awful car" at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton and George Russell have both played down Mercedes' chances of fighting at the front of the F1 field after the pair of pre-season tests in Barcelona and Bahrain, pointing to several issues that the team need to work through.
Hamilton bluntly stated that Mercedes will be out of contention for race victories early on and that it will take several races to tame the W13, which appeared to be particularly affected by the porpoising phenomenon.
Verstappen: Mercedes will be dead last!
Asked for his take on the comments coming from Hamilton, Russell and Mercedes during and after testing, Verstappen poked fun at his rivals.
"I think they will be dead last, according to their comments. I think they have an awful car, and they have already since 2017 in pre-season testing," Verstappen told media, including RacingNews365.com, in Bahrain on Friday.
"No, we'll find out [soon]. I don't know, but they - for sure - will be competitive."
Verstappen's remarks follow on from Carlos Sainz laughing off Russell's recent suggestion that Ferrari are the favourites for the new season, describing it as "typical Mercedes" and "typical George".
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Verstappen focused on repeating 2021 success
As for his and Red Bull's outlook, Verstappen is determined to build on his 2021 success as F1's new era begins.
Verstappen is out to defend his maiden Drivers' title, while Red Bull are looking to achieve their first Constructors' crown since 2013.
"If you look at last season, even during that season, I think we could have had more wins and more pole positions even, but you need a really competitive car to be able to do that," he commented.
"It's gonna be really difficult to do something like that again, but, of course, you always try and do better, so I hope if we have a very competitive car again that we can reach something similar."
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