It is too soon to say Ferrari has stolen a march on its formula one rivals with the impressive F10 car.
That is the belief of Sebastian Vettel, after the recent eight days of testing at Jerez – and the previous test at Valencia – showed that the red car is arguably the best of the 2010 field.
The German, who drives for Red Bull, said his team as well as Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes are likely to be “close” together when the circus meets in Bahrain for next month’s season opener.
“Ferrari has looked pretty strong,” the 22-year-old told Austria’s Salzburger Nachrichten newspaper.
“But all the top teams are making improvements to the cars, so there is more to come,” said Vettel.
“It is still too early to assess how strong everyone really is,” he added.
But while definitive conclusions might be premature, there are signs emerging about the teams’ likely form.
McLaren’s Jenson Button followed the new Mercedes car for a time at Jerez last week, and is quoted by Bild am Sonntag as revealing the rear of the W01 as “somewhat nervous” and locking under brakes.
In a form guide, the German newspaper gave full marks to Ferrari, adding that Red Bull is the next-best team followed by McLaren, Mercedes and Force India.
“I would put money on us,” Adrian Sutil is quoted as saying, while Sauber, Renault and Williams have also impressed at times.
Peter Sauber told the Swiss newspaper Blick that Toro Rosso “made a strong impression” on him at recent tests with its new STR5 car.
“I think we’re (going to be) between 8th and 12th, 8th and 15th,” the Faenza based team’s Spanish driver Jaime Alguersuari told AS newspaper.
The teenager tipped Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren to be currently at the head of the pecking order.
“I think we are together with Renault, Sauber. We never know what are Mercedes’ fuel loads; they can be three or four seconds off the best and sometimes the fastest,” added Alguersuari.
Germany’s specialist Auto Motor und Sport said the pre-season hierarchy in formula one is as “balanced as it has ever been”.
“Even after the third of four tests, no clear favourite for the title has emerged,” read a report.
Mercedes’ Schumacher said: “Barcelona will be an important test for everyone and give us more information about the performance of our cars.”