Baku, March 2, AZERTAC
Lando Norris is expecting Mercedes to keep their true pace a secret during Bahrain testing but has warned that "if they're good, they're going to be incredible at the first race", according to Racing News 365.
The McLaren driver saw his MCL36 top the timesheets on the first day of testing in Barcelona, a position he made clear he would rather not have finished in as excitement grew over the prospect of the young Briton joining the title fight in 2022.
By the end of the week, Ferrari and Mercedes had both registered times faster than McLaren's, with seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton topping the tower on the final day with a rapid lap on a drying track.
But Norris says it is impossible to calculate who is fast and who is not after three secretive days behind closed doors at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, during which he predicts the big teams kept their cards close to their chest.
Speaking to select members of the media, including RacingNews365.com, Norris said: "Mercedes never look that good in testing, only when they get to the first race. If they're good in testing, that means they're probably going to be incredible by the first race!
"I think everyone's worked on their own programmes and so on. Of course, everyone has different fuel loads and power modes and whatever.
"We can see a picture. I think we are in a decent position. But then Ferrari have looked very good since day one. They've been at the top of the timesheets every single time and [their] long-run pace looks good. So Ferrari look very, very strong."
He added: "Mercedes and Red Bull are right there with us [McLaren and Ferrari] and, if anything, I'd say a little bit ahead of the moment."
Norris has been consistent in his assessment of his new McLaren through pre-season testing so far, maintaining that the Woking-based team still have an awful lot to do before they can fight Mercedes and Red Bull for the championship.
All should become clear in Bahrain, at a circuit where Norris has performed well during his career to date, finishing sixth (2019) and fourth twice (2020 and 2021).
"I feel like we have a lot of work to do as a team if you want to be fighting with them [Ferrari and Mercedes], but that's expected, I would say," Norris continued.
"I think we can feel good about ourselves with the car we bought to the track so far this season. I think we just [need to] be clear [that] there are so many things for us to improve on to be at the level there."
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