Max Verstappen has swiftly shut down claims made by Lewis Hamilton and George Russell suggesting that Mercedes will be out of contention to win the Bahrain Grand Prix next Sunday. The Red Bull man may feel quietly confident after a promising final day of pre-season testing which saw him top the time-sheets.
Two separate three-day tests in Barcelona and Bahrain have now come and gone to give fans subtle hints about who could be fighting out in front in 2022.
Hamilton will be out for revenge after painfully missing out on an eighth world title back in December, while Verstappen will be keen to prove that FIA race director Michael Masi was not the reason for his Drivers’ Championship triumph last year.
There has been some concern from the Silver Arrows’ camp over a troubled few days of pre-season tests.
Having banked hundreds of laps in Mercedes’ new W13, the seven-time world champion claimed that they ‘won’t be competing for wins to begin with’.
DON’T MISS: McLaren loaned Daniel Ricciardo replacement should F1 driver miss Bahrain GP with Covid
Hamilton added that in his view Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari are all in healthier positions as things stand.
When quizzed on the matter this weekend, Verstappen made it clear that he doesn’t buy it.
“If someone is doing well or a team that everyone expects to do well, then it’s: ‘Oh no, we’re definitely not the favourite’,” he scoffed, per Autosport.
“And then a week later, when things do go well, all of a sudden it’s: ‘Oh no, but we turned it around completely within a week. Not normal, unbelievable work. Thanks to all people in the factory!'”
The Dutchman went on to cite Mercedes’ struggles last pre-season, adding: “They were still very strong during the first race weekend.”
Carlos Sainz was also among those to dismiss Hamilton’s claims of weakness, but Verstappen did agree with his bitter rival on the threat posed by Ferrari.
“We will see next week who is fastest, but so far [Ferrari] have had a very good test,” added the 24-year-old.
On the final day of testing in Bahrain, Verstappen topped the pile having notched a lap time six tenths quicker than his nearest challenger.
Hamilton was several seconds back, but his outing came in significantly less favourable conditions than that of the Red Bull man.
Haas youngster Mick Schumacher sprung a surprise during his specially-granted bonus session, notching the second-fastest lap time of the day after his new team-mate, Kevin Magnussen, registered the fastest time on Friday.
It remains to be seen how the pack will shape up when the consequences become real next weekend.
The season’s curtain-raiser in Bahrain is due to get underway on March 20.