MONTMELO, Spain -- Ferrari's impressive finish to Formula One's pre-season has made Daniel Ricciardo contemplate Red Bull's true place in the pecking order, but he is still sure both teams are in the same "ballpark" as Mercedes.
Red Bull has enjoyed an encouraging pre-season, prompting Daniel Ricciardo to joke earlier this week that his friends back in Australia should bet $75,000 on him to win the title at odds of 10/1. But the headlines on the final two days belonged to Ferrari, with Sebastian Vettel shattering the Circuit de Catalunya track record on Thursday and Kimi Raikkonen finishing quickest on Friday.
Individual lap times are misleading at this stage of testing and the paddock consensus, based on long-run pace and estimated deltas between Pirelli's tyres, is that Ferrari and Red Bull are marginally behind Mercedes in the pecking order.The question of who holds the edge between Red Bull and Ferrari is also an unanswered one and after completing his final day in the RB14 on Friday Ricciardo admitted the picture is even more unclear now than it was earlier in the week.
When asked if he thought Red Bull was second best behind Mercedes, he said: "The other day, maybe a bit like that, but Ferrari turned it up the last couple of days. They had pretty good pace. It's hard, it's hard to say. Then you see some other teams throw in some quick times, so...
"I don't think we're yet the quickest, so I think we do still have some lap time to find but I do believe we're in the ballpark. What does a ballpark mean? I don't know! But we're there or thereabouts."
After encouraging pace and mileage over the winter there is a quietly optimistic atmosphere at Red Bull, who are staying in Barcelona to complete a filming day at the circuit on Saturday.
At his final media session of the tests, a journalist told Ricciardo everyone was dreaming of a three-team fight for the 2018 world championshipe, to which he said: "So am I."
The Australian says he feels better about his chances ahead of his home grand prix than he did at this stage in 2017.
"We are certainly more ready than we were last year and probably every year before that since I've been with the team. We did a lot of laps and I think the pace of the car is not bad but we still have some things to improve which is normal.
"But yes, going to the race and having confidence to push the car on the limit and push the engine a little bit... I think we have much more confidence now. We'll see. I think Ferrari and Mercedes will be quick and other teams I don't know some teams put in some quick times during testing so Melbourne is going to be interesting."