Max Verstappen is still keeping his hopes in check despite setting the best time on last day of Bahrain F1 Test, while Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes may not straight up fight for wins.

With a time of 1m31.720s under the lights at Sakhir, he ended the F1 test on top which was similar to how Lewis Hamilton ended the Barcelona test on top on the final day of its running last week. With the opening race of the 23 event calendar a week away, despite the fastest time, Verstappen is not taking it as a ground-breaking thing.

“Nobody is giving it full beans in qualifying-spec at the moment,” said Verstappen to F1 TV. “Of course the car is better in low fuel and actually on the high fuel the car… doesn’t really do a lot, but it’s the same for everyone. I think with the new parts, which arrived today, they also worked well, which you always hope for. They worked, so then hopefully we’ll keep them on for the opening race.”

Aside the lap times, the important aspect of the test was to continue learning the tyres and the Dutchman noted that Red Bull were interested in discovering further information about the 18-inch Pirelli tyres itself rather than top the timesheets.  He also compared and contrasted Bahrain’s conditions to those of Barcelona.

“It was just a general progression of the day and we were just trying a few different tyres,” said Verstappen. “But I think the main focus was about the tyres, which we’re going to use next week. But the car was feeling alright, and we went through our programme which we planned to do, and that’s always positive.

“You know, compared to Barcelona I think more of it is just the track – the rough surface, warmer conditions, and the layout of the track makes it a completely different feeling compared to Barcelona. But yes, 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.”

Despite the six days testing in two different locations, there is no substitute for actual racing. There were of course some surprises thrown up and now F1 teams are starting to get to grips with the new rules and learning new bits after every run.

Last season’s gripping finale has not been forgotten about. Mercedes will still be there to take the fight to Red Bull and others. But Hamilton is downplaying the German outfit’s performance and feels that testing left them with questions about their pace.

“We’ve got through the test program and we’ve had decent reliability which has been positive, I think everyone’s struggling with this bumpy track and we come out of it still with a lot of work to do,” said Hamilton. “There’s a confidence we can work always through whatever problem that we’re facing.

“At the moment I’m sure everyone can figure that out we’re not the quickest at the moment, I think Ferrari look to be the quickest and perhaps Red Bull then maybe us but I don’t know. But we’re currently not at the top.”

It has been learning curve for all ten teams. But although Mercedes acquitted themselves well, they were not one of the leading lights over the days which much feel unusual. They had a similar Bahrain test last year where they downplayed their performance but eventually came out all guns blazing in the first few races.

Hamilton reckons the situation is different than that this year. “It feels a lot different,” he started. “It’s not as good, I don’t think it’s going to look as good as last year with the difficult session we had in practice then the switch over to the race. I think we have far bigger challenges this time and they’re not one week turn arounds.

“I think they’ll take a little bit longer, but from what I’m told we have a considerable amount of pace to find,” summed up Hamilton, who made a bold statement that Mercedes won’t be competing for wins to start off.

“Obviously it’s a little bit too early to get into that or have those thoughts, but at the moment I don’t think we’ll be competing for wins, but there is potential within our car to get us there we’ve just got to learn to be able to extract it and fix some of the problems, which is what we’re working on,” said Hamilton.

“Everyone’s doing such an incredible job working back at the factory as hard as they can but we have some hurdles to overcome and obviously next week we’ll get a much better showing of our pace, but yeah I think people will be surprised maybe or at least because people keep talking about if we’re talking ourselves down or not but it’s a bit different this year.”

Hamilton is talking Mercedes down at the moment, even though they had a fairly decent testing. Verstappen and Red Bull know the games the F1 rivals like to play and they are not counting them out in any form along with Ferrari.

Here’s Bahrain Test’s stats

Here’s Lewis Hamilton and Pierre Gasly on their duel + tyres