Valtteri Bottas believes Ferrari is ahead of Mercedes at this stage of pre-season testing after an impressive opening week for Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc.
Vettel was quickest on the opening day before Leclerc followed up with the fastest time on day two, as both drivers also exceeded 150 laps. The consistency with which Ferrari has performed so far has also come with strong pace, and as Mercedes only began to show strong performance on the final day of the first test, Bottas conceded the Scuderia appears to have an advantage at this point.
“They do seem very strong,” Bottas said. “No matter which kind of fuel load or engine modes they’re running, but whatever you try to correct that for, in any case, they are quick — short runs and long runs. I think we feel at this point they might be a bit ahead, but obviously it’s impossible to make detailed calculations.
“It is very early days. Again, with the new rules, it’s going to be a big development race. We don’t think anyone is going with this kind of car in this test to the first race, including us. We do have new parts coming before the first race. We can’t really rely on that, that it’s going to be an upgrade. We still need, even with this spec of car, to try to get better and quicker.”
Along with his estimation of Ferrari’s strength, Bottas says there are elements of the new Mercedes that the team is keen to work on. Rather than view that as a negative, he says it’s good to know the car has potential.
“The car feels a little bit different. At least in these conditions the tires have quite a narrow window to work — it’s not the ideal temperatures for testing. It seems that, balance-wise, we’re a bit on a knife edge at the moment. But there’s nothing fundamentally wrong, I think. There’s definitively a lot of potential, but we’re not yet quite there.
“I sense a bit of an excitement in the team, to discover more about the car and we’re really, really trying to improve it, because at this moment it looks like we’re not miles ahead of everyone. It seems like Ferrari is, at this point, in a better place, I think that motivates us. Obviously we’d love to be ahead in Melbourne, but it’s too early to speak about that.”