SOCHI, Russia -- Carlos Sainz says he "nearly laughed" when he heard the FIA's claim that Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault's engines have converged to within 0.3s of one another under F1's new rules.
In Russia the FIA revealed that the performance metric agreed between F1's four manufacturers last year showed that, after three races of 2017, three of the four of them are within three tenths. That target was set last year in a bid to test whether the removal of the restrictive token system, which had previously dictated engine over the winter had been successful in bringing the field closer together.
Ahead of the weekend, Force India driver Sergio Perez claimed Renault had "more or less" moved level with Mercedes and Ferrari's engines, something which the FIA appeared to confirm with its announcement in Russia. Sainz, driving for Renault customer Toro Rosso, said he could not believe the story when he read it.
"I saw news coming out this week about the FIA that the top three engines are within three tenths and I nearly put a comment on Twitter laughing at it," Sainz said. "And then Perez saying 'yes, it's true, it's true'. I nearly laughed at it. I think Max [Verstappen] also nearly laughed.
"We've made progress, Renault has made progress. If not [Nico] Hulkenberg would not be where he is [8th on grid], but we are definitely not closer than half a second compared to Mercedes, especially in qualifying. In the race it's not that bad, but in qualifying the Mercedes engine has half a second or more."
Toro Rosso's parent team Red Bull, running a Renault engine branded TAG Heuer, qualified a distant 1.8s off pole position in Russia. Daniel Ricciardo has previously said Red Bull can no longer call themselves the "king team" of aerodynamics after falling short of Ferrari and Mercedes again in 2017, but he finds it hard to believe the 0.3s figure can be accurate.
"I said it from the start, like for sure in the last few years we have kind of felt like the chassis has been a lot closer to where it needs to be, and it is more power unit we are looking for. I feel this year so far we are definitely trying to find a jump in both ends.
"The power unit is not something new to us now, like he have experienced this deficit the last few years. So looking at the gap you'd think it is more than 0.3. I'd definitely put money on that, but I certainly feel that there is a bit of that in the chassis.
"I said it already, I feel now it is 50/50 the improvement we need to make on both ends. If we got within 0.3 that would be nice. But it would still be 0.3 and we want to be even closer, but I feel we are further off that."