Lewis Hamilton has warned Mercedes about Ferrari and Red Bull's threat ahead of the season opening Formula One race on 26 March at the Albert Park circuit in Australia.
The Briton is confident that two chasing teams have made a step forward and will challenge them in the upcoming campaign, after the former set the fastest time of the winter test on the final day. The Maranello-based team have now set the fastest time with each of the tyre compound available during the test.
Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time of the two pre-season tests on the final day when he clocked a 1:18.634 on the supersoft tyres. It was the first time any team had dropped below the 1:19's. Ferrari are looking like the real deal this time around, despite Sebastian Vettel playing it down the previous day.
Winter test can be cruel in terms of predicting the true pecking order, owing to each car running a different programme. The Scuderia were the fastest during testing in 2016 and 2015, but failed to challenge Mercedes. However, Hamilton is sure that the Italian team has a great car, despite stating on day three that Ferrari were bluffing in terms of their true performance.
Mercedes did not try and compete for the fastest times on the final days of testing instead chose to complete their race simulations while setting competitive times. Hamilton admitted recently that they were running on 80% of their true power and are expected to be the team to beat when the season begins in Melbourne in two weeks time.
"They've done a fantastic job and I think there's more to come from them. Their pace has been spectacular," Hamilton was quoted as saying on Sky Sports.
"The others look very quick and it looks like we have a good battle on our hands."
"Did I say that? I must have said it without realising!" the three-time world champion said with a smile about his comments from the previous day about Ferrari bluffing.
"I don't know if Red Bull have brought their upgrade package here but normally they bring it to the first race. I expect us to be having a real serious battle with both these teams."
"The goal in testing is not to go as fast as you can, it's to find out what you have in the car. Driving today, the time you saw was the time l could do, l didn't feel like l left anything out there or l could have gone any faster. There are all sort of things that come into play to bring down lap times - fuel loads, engine modes and those sort of things. The great thing is, nobody knows for sure," he explained about Mercedes' lack of pace on the final day of testing.
"It looks very positive for Ferrari. I don't think it's a bluff, I think it's true. They have a great car."