Daniel Ricciardo is confident Red Bull has closed the gap to Mercedes during the Formula 1 off-season.
After topping the second day of testing at Barcelona, the Australian suggested his team is much closer to the class leaders in comparison to this time last year.
“Now it looks like we’re close,” Ricciardo said.
“I still don’t really know where Ferrari is, I’m quite confident that Mercedes is just in front of us, but Ferrari I’m not sure. I think we’re going to be a lot closer than last year.
“I think Mercedes do have a little bit on us, but I don’t think it’s too much – I don’t think we’re talking six or eight tenths, like it was this time last year.
“We seem to be close, and Ferrari I would guess are probably close, within our pace.
“I have a more positive than negative feeling for sure, it’s on the right side of the spectrum where we need to be.
“If we produce the reliability and the pace we had particularly today I think we can fight towards the front.”
Ricciardo’s comments echo those made by Mercedes’ technical boss James Allison, who identified Red Bull as a genuine threat heading into the 2018 championship.
“I think there’s three quick teams and there’s no doubt that Red Bull are going to be people that we’re going to be fighting with this year,” Allison told Sky Sports.
“Even now with two days left there’s still some blurriness, so it’s still not possible to say for sure if we’ve got our nose in front of them or they’ve got their nose in front of us, but you can say it’s close.
“I don’t know what their engine plans are, but looking at what they’ve brought here, I’d say they’ve still got some bodywork to bolt on before Melbourne.”
During the second day of testing Ricciardo set a time underneath the previous track record, and recorded more than 150 laps to show the new car is both fast and reliable.
The final pre-season test runs until Friday, after which teams will begin heading to Australia for the opening race of the year on March 22-25.