Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto has admitted he expects Mercedes to be “two or three months ahead” of his team with their car when the 2022 Formula One season begins in Bahrain on March 20. Ferrari enjoyed a positive three days with their new car displaying strong speed in Barcelona.
Mercedes ended day three fastest but it was McLaren and Ferrari who caught the eye the most at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
The two teams will head into 2022 hoping to challenge Mercedes and Red Bull as the sport’s frontrunners, with third-placed Ferrari ending 225 points behind the latter in second last season.
Speaking at testing in Spain, Hamilton said: “You would assume that Ferrari perhaps didn’t do much development of that  car and just put everything into this year’s car.
“So does that mean that they’re several months ahead? Or a team is several months ahead of everyone? We’ll wait and see.”
But that Hamilton had suggested Ferrari were a few months ahead of Mercedes in Barcelona, Binotto confidently predicted that there will be a huge swing in that dynamic in the coming weeks.
The Italian said to Sky Sports F1: “I am pretty sure they will be two or three months ahead of us by the time we will be in Bahrain.”
It remains to be seen if Binotto is being coy or whether the Silver Arrows, the reigning champions, will bridge the apparent gap to Ferrari.
Hamilton expects a “more level playing field” in 2022 with Mercedes having amassed nine successive Constructors’ Championships.
The Briton added: “This is a really exciting time. We don’t know where everything stands at the moment.
“But I do hope that these rules deliver what Ross [Brawn, F1 motorsport director] showed us years ago in terms of closer racing.
While Hamilton’s new Mercedes team-mate George Russell, who was second-fastest on Friday, declared: “The three days in Barcelona have been incredibly intriguing.
“I don’t think the lap times are very representative at all. We were top of the timesheets today on the C5 tyre compound which is incredibly strong around Barcelona, but I wouldn’t read much into it.
“The Ferrari and McLaren look strong.”
Barcelona testing was officially billed as ‘shakedown’ testing with another three of preparations pencilled in in the Middle East next month.
The teams will be in Bahrain from March 10-12 with three eight-hour days of running to really put their cars through their paces ahead of the season-opening race at the Sakhir Circuit on March 20.