Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto was in a bullish mood ahead the 2022 Formula 1 season's opening race in Bahrain this weekend. The Maranello based team feel they have wiped out the 25 bhp deficit they had to Mercedes and Honda during the winter, and even feel they could be slightly ahead.

The legendary Italian team looked strong in both the pre-season tests, and have been tipped to make a strong start to the campaign. Binotto feels Ferrari have fulfilled their objective of clawing past the deficit they had to their rival manufacturers, but admits that the true picture will only become clear when teams run without holding back during qualifying on Saturday.

Ferrari dropped behind Mercedes and Honda following the 2019 season, when the FIA introduced new regulations after complaints that the Italian marque had found a loophole in the previous year. Binotto feels that they can now compete on a level playing field after focusing much of their attention last season on a new power unit for the 2022 campaign and beyond, owing to the upcoming engine freeze.

"Knowing that from this year the engines will be frozen for the next four seasons, it was obviously important to start with a power unit that had no performance gap to the competition," Binotto said, as quoted by Autosport. "At the end of last season we had a gap of 20-25 horsepower, so the first goal was to cancel this margin."

Charles Leclerc
Long-term deal: Ferrari's Charles Leclerc William WEST/AFP

"At the moment we are not yet able to understand what the values on track are, as the measurements that we take using the GPS system have a certain accuracy, but they are not super precise."

"In the tests, from the little we saw, we conducted an exercise and according to this initial analysis, we are at the level of the others. We are certainly not behind them, and perhaps we have a little more," he added.

Ferrari were near the top during both pre-season tests, delivering consistent lap times. The Scuderia completed more mileage than any other team, and even looked strong in both high fuel and low fuel runs finishing just behind Red Bull Racing at the Bahrain test.

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen have both tipped Ferrari to be among the contenders when the first race gets underway at Bahrain on Sunday. Binotto did not disagree with the paddock's views about his team competing at the front, but is unclear if they will be ahead of favourites Red Bull or just behind.

"I think we will be competitive next weekend but we cannot say today if we will be two tenths ahead or behind," the Ferrari boss said. "But I think we will be at a level where we can compete, and if there is a difference, it will not be insurmountable. Let's talk of gaps that after 4-5 races can still be filled. The starting point is good, but how good we will discover."

Lewis Hamilton
Max Verstappen won an epic season-long battle with reigning champion Lewis Hamilton ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP