Mercedes reckons Red Bull could prove to be the reigning world champions’ biggest threat during the 2018 Formula 1 season, according to technical director James Allison. 

Daniel Ricciardo posted the fastest ever lap around Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya on the second day of the final pre-season test at the Spanish Grand Prix venue, edging out Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton by 0.3s with a 1m18.047s on Pirelli’s fastest hypersoft tyre. 

While Hamilton set his time on ultrasofts - the second softest compound - Allison says he has seen enough from Red Bull to suggest the quadruple world champions could act as Mercedes’ direct competition in the upcoming campaign. 

“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 News. “There's clearly no doubt about that.

“As winter testing goes on you get a better and better idea of where things stack up. 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.”

After topping the timesheets on Wednesday, Ricciardo insisted his team was in a better shape to challenge Mercedes and Ferrari in 2018, and Allison believes Red Bull is yet to unlock the full potential of its RB14. 

“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.

“But no one really sandbags. There's no point in sandbagging. You're here to test. And you're only going to do a valid test if you find out what your car can do.

“The thing you can do to change the absolute pace is to have more or less fuel in the car, to have the engine turned up more or less depending on what particular test you're making with it.”

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