The French works team had a bad 2016 in the wake of the Lotus takeover, but technical boss Alan Permane said at the end of Barcelona testing: “Together with Toro Rosso, we are slightly ahead of Force India and Haas.”
Indeed, it is believed that Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull top the pecking order, Williams is alone in fourth place followed by a gaggle of midfielders.
Permane added: “I do not believe that Toro Rosso, Haas and Force India will be able to keep up with our development pace.”
Toro Rosso chief Franz Tost told Speed Week: “We are well placed in the midfleld.
“I see Mercedes in front, then Ferrari and Red Bull with a gap to (Felipe) Massa in the Williams. Force India seems to be faster than us, with Renault in our league and question marks about McLaren and Haas.”