Perez staying calm but rivals claim Racing Point is third-best... at least

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Sergio Perez isn't getting carried away but Racing Point's rivals do believe they are at least third-fastest after practice in Austria.

The Silverstone-based outfit has been at the heart of Formula 1 chat for much of the year, after their controversial 'Pink Mercedes' was revealed in Barcelona.

And after an impressive pre-season, that form has carried to the Red Bull Ring where not only was Perez third fastest in the qualifying runs, but his race pace was a match for Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

"We were a good half a second away [from Mercedes], and in such a small track, the Ferraris, the Red Bulls, the Renaults, the McLarens, are within a tenth from us, so it's not like we can get too excited," said the Mexican. 

"The margins are extremely close, so hopefully tomorrow we can put a great lap together in qualifying and we'll see where we really are.

"We have an idea, but tomorrow is when everyone puts everything together, and it will be good to see us up there."

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While it is true, Racing Point was not exactly miles ahead of their midfield rivals, and Red Bull appeared to underperform, there seems little doubt the team has closed right in on the tail-end of the top three squads and that has caught the eye of everyone.

"We can set the field into three trenches. Mercedes, Red Bull and Racing Point. Then I would say Ferrari, McLaren and Renault. And then AlphaTauri, Sauber and ourselves, with Williams just behind," Haas' Romain Grosjean suggested.

"What I heard, I didn't get the time to see the timing in details, but I heard that they were matching Bottas - or Sergio was matching Bottas' on the long run.

"Obviously they have that partnership with Mercedes and their car is very similar to the Mercedes one, which is the best one out there, so you know, good on them.

"We have a partnership with Ferrari. Maybe we work a little bit differently.

"But I think is a great model and it's going to be good to see a little bit of diversity and change of colour fighting for good positions."

McLaren has been one of the more vocal with their unhappiness at how Racing Point has achieved their pace, and Carlos Sainz seemed to agree with Grosjean that they are already out of reach.

"Racing Point were particularly quick today," said the Spaniard.

"We were expecting them to be quick, but on such a short circuit, to have the advantage they had over the rest of the midfield was particularly impressive.

"My opinion is that they are way too far away to try and mount a fight to them, but at least Renault, we look to be in the ballpark with them. It's going to be good fun."