Sainz wary of Mercedes after Russell talks up Ferrari

Ferrari's Carlos Sainz suggested Formula One champion Mercedes and its driver George Russell were playing 'typical' games in talking up the Italian team ahead of the season starting in Bahrain next week.

Ferrari's Carlos Sainz talks in the Drivers Press Conference during Day Two of F1 Testing at Bahrain International Circuit on Friday.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Ferrari's Carlos Sainz suggested Formula One champion Mercedes and its driver George Russell were playing 'typical' games in talking up the Italian team ahead of the season starting in Bahrain next week.

Russell, preparing to partner seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton after moving from Williams, told reporters in testing at Sakhir that Ferrari was looking very solid and potentially the strongest in low fuel runs.

Sainz said on Friday that the Briton's comments were "typical Mercedes, typical George -- just hype up the others and then come to the first race and blow the competition away.

"If it would be the first year they've done it then I would maybe believe them but they've done it for five or six years now and they keep surprising us in the first race.

"As you can imagine I don't believe much ... we can see what they are doing (on track) and I'm not going to say much," added the Spaniard.

Mercedes has been constructors' champion for the past eight years.

Ferrari, the sport's oldest and most successful team, finished third overall last year after climbing back from a 40-year low of sixth in 2020.

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It has not won a drivers' title since now-retired Kimi Raikkonen was champion in 2007 or a constructors' crown since 2008.

This year sees major rule changes, however, and Ferrari switched full attention to its 2022 car earlier than title-chasing rivals and has also benefited from more wind tunnel time.

The buzz in Italy, and in the Formula One paddock, is mounting.

Friday's headlines in Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport highlighted those rising hopes, even if that is still far from front page news.

"Robust and fast, the Ferrari goes," the paper declared, noting the words of Russell and Red Bull's world champion Max Verstappen. "The F1-75 impresses the rivals".

Red Bull boss Christian Horner, whose team was locked in a season-long battle with Mercedes last year, added to the praise.

"For me the car that looks the most settled on the circuit is the Ferrari at the moment," he told reporters. "They've had a very strong testing period so far, both in Barcelona and in Bahrain.

"They've looked extremely competitive whenever on track, but you have to remember these cars are still very immature.

"The rate of development will be fast and intense and I expect that to change and Mercedes are going to be a huge factor in this championship, I have no doubt."

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