The 2021 pre-season was “the best test since Red Bull Racing came into existence” according to its motorsport adviser, Dr Helmut Marko.
Max Verstappen topped the timesheets on both of the days during which he spent time in the RB16B at Bahrain last weekend, ending the test fastest overall at less than a tenth of a second ahead of rookie Yuki Tsunoda in the sister team, Scuderia AlphaTauri.
The showing has left Marko very much upbeat about the Milton Keynes squad's position, although he is wary of the possibility that Mercedes was not showing its true pace.
“That was certainly the best test since Red Bull Racing came into existence,” the Austrian declared to German television network RTL.
“Everything worked right from the start.
“But we know that Mercedes is the favourite, and I assume that they drove with much more fuel than we did.
“The fact that they didn't really align with others in terms of fuel load, that already shows that they must have a lot of confidence. So, we assume they still have a lot up their sleeves.
“Mercedes is the favourite and we are the first challenger. That's how I see the situation.
“Behind them, it's going to be a battle. I think McLaren will stand out a bit, but not at the level of Mercedes and us. The midfield is certainly closer together.”
Red Bull sought to make its 2021 car a more stable machine than its predecessor, which Verstappen and Alexander Albon had battled with at times.
Marko was also satisfied with its progress in that area, especially considering the RB16B seems to have not given up anything in the way of outright pace.
“Compared to Mercedes, our car definitely seems calmer,” he observed.
“Of course, that makes it easier for a driver. It's predictable, and you can work better at the limit. But that was also the goal.
“We didn't want to make the car slower so that it's easier to control. We wanted a fast car that is predictable. And I think we achieved that well.”
Marko has seen enough from Perez's day-and-a-half of testing with Red Bull, however, to suggest that the Mexican will be near enough to matching his Dutch team-mate in races.
“With his routine and experience, we already expect him to be very close to Verstappen, at least in the race,” he remarked.
Round 1 of the season is the Bahrain Grand Prix, on March 26-28 (local time).