Barcelona: Red Bull`s Mark Webber singled out Ferrari as Formula One`s team to beat on Thursday, with Felipe Massa repaying the compliment but hoping the Australian was right.
Sauber`s Sergio Perez was quickest on the third day of the final pre-season test at the Circuit de Catalunya although the Mexican`s best lap time of one minute 21.761 seconds was a low fuel qualifying simulation on super-soft tyres.
Brazilian Massa was second fastest, 0.331 slower, after a similar single lap run.
However the Ferrari driver completed 132 laps -- the equivalent of a double race distance at the Spanish Grand Prix track near Barcelona -- and said the team`s latest upgrade was a clear improvement.
Webber was third for the world champions, a further 0.374 off the pace.
"I think Ferrari are strong. I think we`re going OK and the rest is hard to say," Webber told reporters in the evening sunshine.
"I haven`t even looked at the times today, they`re not even of interest, you just focus on your own thing," he added, laughing: "I think we`ll be in the top eight in Melbourne."
The season starts in Australia on March 27.
"You can never have it perfect but we could be in much worse shape in terms of reliability. Hopefully we are not too far away from Ferrari to start with and we go from there," said the 34-year-old.
"I think we`re going OK but it`s impossible for me to know what the red guys (Ferrari) are doing. On race runs they are going okay, they look quick."
Asked about Webber`s comments, Massa pointed to Red Bull as his favourites.
"First of all they are a team that won last year and second they are very quick here. Even yesterday (world champion) Sebastian (Vettel) did a very quick time as well. so I point to Red Bull," he said. "I hope Mark Webber is right."
McLaren, racing against time to get their car up to speed, did not test on Thursday and Mercedes, who also have teething problems, were busy with seven times champion Michael Schumacher behind the wheel.
"It was a good day. We made a lot of progress with the car, so I`m quite happy," said the former Ferrari driver after ending the day fifth fastest.
"Having finished reliability work at the other test we`re concentrating on setting up the car, fine tuning it and understanding it down to the last detail."
"We clearly know Red Bull is very strong, and they are the team you have to look at. I guess we`re not quite in this position but I wasn`t expecting to be in this position right now."
"The season is long and there is a big question mark as to who is coming behind, and I hope we play a sufficient role in that."