Honestly, I think they do not know where they stand. They probably think that Red Bull and Ferrari are sandbagging a little, that is why they do not want to make any bold statements, but they do not want to project the car as a disaster either. Hence the confusion.
It’ll be interesting to see but my guess is that Merc did improve, but have now been jumped by McLaren. If I’m wrong, I still can’t see Merc being up there with the Red Bulls.
Looks like Merc may be trying a different setup to most cars too; I’m pretty sure the commentators said the Mercs were over 10km/h faster through the speed trap than the next closest in practice 1 (correct me if I’m wrong).
If this is still the case on Sunday, with KERS and DRS, it should make them competitive overtakers.