Max Verstappen said he was almost seven tenths faster than the others in official testing without giving him “full beans”.
The third day out of three in Bahrain is when Red Bull rolled out an upgraded RB18 with sculpted sidepods – and that took them to the top of the leaderboard.
This was the case in the morning and afternoon sessions, Sergio Perez setting the standard before lunch and Verstappen doing so in the last collective race before the start of the new campaign next weekend.
And the world champion wasn’t the fastest by a pinch – he knocked Ferrari out of the park even though the Scuderia had previously looked for the team to beat throughout pre-season.
The margin was ultimately 0.695s over Charles Leclerc, with Verstappen the only driver to break the 1:32 barrier.
He then suggested there was a lot more in the locker, although it was clearly a qualifying simulation on the softer C5 tire compound.
“No one is [giving it] whole grains in qualifying spec at the moment,” Verstappen said as quoted by Formula1.com.
“Sure [the car is] better on little fuel and in fact with a lot of fuel, the car… doesn’t do much, but that’s the same for everyone.
—Oracle Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) March 12, 2022
The 24-year-old insisted the priority was simply to gather data on the new 18-inch tires rather than the team flexing its muscles to remind Mercedes and Ferrari that they will be strong again championship contenders this year.
“It was just a general progression of the day and we were just trying a few different tyres,” Verstappen said. “I think the focus was on the tires we’ll use next week.
“But the car felt good and we went through our program that we planned to do, and that’s always positive.”
There were also the different conditions to consider in Bahrain compared to Barcelona – this week’s venue having been much warmer and windier than Spain.
“Compared to Barcelona, I think it’s more just the track – the rough surface, the hotter conditions and the layout of the track makes it feel completely different compared to Barcelona,” added Verstappen.
“Of course I think we learned a lot more about the cars so we made the car faster and I think that’s what you want.
Regarding the updates to the car, he added: “I think with the new parts, which arrived today, they also worked well, which is what you always hope for.
“They worked, so hopefully we keep them [for the opening race].”