George Russell believes Mercedes can take the fight to Red Bull in Abu Dhabi 12 months on from the controversial 2021 F1 championship-deciding event.
Mercedes has enjoyed a resurgence since fitting its final upgrade of the season at the United States Grand Prix, with the team scoring its first win of the year last weekend via Russell in Brazil.
The victory was Russell's maiden grand prix triumph, with the 24-year-old confident of another victory challenge at the Yas Island circuit after ending Friday practice behind only Max Verstappen.
"We’ll be fighting for it," said Russell. "I’d like to think we can fight for the top three in qualifying and who knows where that could take us on Sunday.
“We had a very strong day in terms of what we’ve learnt. We had quite a lot of test items, especially on my side in FP1 looking ahead to 2023 and this is one of our last opportunities to test.
“FP2, obviously, a cooler track temperature, things changed completely and it felt fast out there but I think Red bull just has the legs on us.
“Over a single lap, they’re probably two-tenths [of a second] ahead and on a long run, maybe further.
“So we’ve a little bit of work to do overnight but compared to Ferrari it looked reasonable.”
Lewis Hamilton was critical of the Pirelli tyres, describing managing a qualifying lap as a 'roll of the dice'.
Asked for his thoughts on the tyres, Russell added: “It’s really difficult over a single lap because all of the tight corners are in the last sector.
"So you’re trying to find that balance to get the most out of the tyre, not taking too much out of it in sector one but making sure it’s still alive in sector three.
“The race run, I would have said we’re a little bit behind Red Bull. We know they’ve got a really slippery car down the straights.
"It’s very efficient, and on a circuit like this with two long straights and lots of slow-speed corners, this fits them down to a tee.
“I’m pleased we’re much closer than we were at Spa where it’s not too dissimilar to this.”