Valtteri Bottas insists Mercedes is not sure if it has the quickest car ahead of the start of the new Formula 1 season despite showing impressive pace during pre-season testing.
While it was Ferrari that topped the times courtesy of quick laps set on the hypersoft tire during the second pre-season test in Barcelona, Mercedes caught the eye with its race simulations and long run pace. The team also didn’t use the hypersofts in testing but its tire-corrected performance suggests it has the quickest car heading into the opening race, something Bottas says cannot be guaranteed.
“We’ve only had testing in Barcelona and it’s a very special circuit and it’s very different to Melbourne,” Bottas said. “The car we had there was good, we know that long straights normally haven’t been a weakness for us so we expect to be strong in Melbourne, but if we’re going to be ahead of Ferrari and Red Bull, we can’t promise that.
“You never know what they can bring to the first race in terms of upgrades and so on, so there’s plenty of question marks around. We know we’ve got a good car, but we don’t know how good the others’ cars are.”
Asked specifically about home favorite Daniel Ricciardo’s chances for this season, Bottas replied: “I think Red Bull is going to have a good chance this year.
“I think they showed some good speed in testing, but we still need to see what kind of upgrades they’re going to bring. Daniel is a good driver, as also his teammate is, so for sure they are going to be a threat to us this year.”
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, Bottas says the changes to the tires for this season – with softer compounds introduced by Pirelli – could be a limiting factor for Mercedes.
“Definitely there are a lot of question marks and we have only really tested the tires properly with the new car in Barcelona,” he said. “It’s a unique track and it was resurfaced, so we don’t have that much data for the whole season yet.
“For the first race, Melbourne is a very different circuit, so for sure we have had to estimate many things with the car set-up and the tire allocation – how many different sets we will be using – so I think Friday practice is really going to be crucial. At least in Barcelona our car was working well. We had some difficulties working with the softer compounds but this is Melbourne, it’s different, so hopefully it’s going to be good here.”