Max Verstappen admits he was slightly surprised to see Mercedes struggle to match Red Bull and Ferrari in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Despite achieiving their first win of the 2022 F1 season last time out in Brazil, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell could only finish P5 and P6 respectively in Saturday's session, with Verstappen and Sergio Perez securing the front row while Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz claimed third and fourth.
In terms of whether Mercedes or Ferrari will be Red Bull's main threat in the race, Verstappen voiced his hope that they can simply stay ahead of both teams, with Perez battling Leclerc to claim P2 in the World Championship.
"It's difficult to tell at the moment," Verstappen told media, including RacingNews365.com, when asked which team posed the greater challenge.
"I think, from our side, we looked good in FP2 with the long runs, and it seemed like both Ferrari and Mercedes seemed to struggle a little bit more at the time.
"But I don't know what they have done overnight, so I guess we'll find out [in the race].
"I think, as a team, we just need to stay ahead of them. That's very clear, because that means that also Checo is ahead in the championship."
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Verstappen reflects on 'mystery' for Mercedes
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff voiced his disappointment over Mercedes going "backwards" in qualifying, and Verstappen was similarly left surprised by the team's struggles.
"Maybe [it's] the layout [of the circuit], but honestly, it is a bit of a mystery," the Dutchman commented.
"But even for us, we didn't expect to be so slow in Brazil, so clearly we don't always seem to understand where we are really good or just pretty average.
"[I was] a little surprised, but who knows? Maybe they focus more on the long run and sacrifice a little bit of one-lap performance. You never know."
Video: Bottas takes RacingNews365.com on F1 hot lap of Abu Dhabi!
Editorial Director Dieter Rencken joined the Alfa Romeo driver for a hot lap of the track, which has hosted Formula 1 since back in 2009.
Along the way, Bottas reveals the secrets of the venue.