Valtteri Bottas believes Ferrari holds an advantage over the closely-matched pair of Mercedes and Red Bull despite a heavily updated W10 being introduced during pre-season testing in Barcelona.
Mercedes brought a significantly different car to the second test, acknowledging it was behind Ferrari across the opening four days in Spain. While Bottas is confident his team has made progress between the tests, he says Ferrari has shown performance that Mercedes and Red Bull have yet to find.
“It is better, but if it’s enough — that’s the big question mark,” Bottas said. “But I definitely feel improvements since last week with the stability of the car, with the overall downforce of the car, but we definitely feel we still haven’t unlocked everything there is to unlock.
“Even though we’re approaching the end of testing we’re learning still massively in each run, each day. We do still need to make improvements, for sure, but at least we have some time after testing to again learn more for Australia.
“(Ferrari) still seem strong. It’s as always: From testing to Melbourne a lot of things can change, but they do have a strong package. Like I said earlier we do need to unlock more from the new package to be able to really compete with them properly — at this point I think they’re looking very strong, but there’s still a couple of weeks until Melbourne.
“Red Bull seem in good shape as well. I think between us two the differences are not massive. In testing it’s difficult to read in detail but my feeling — our feeling — is Ferrari is a bit ahead of both of us. Honestly the whole field looks like it’s a bit tighter than last year or the year before, but it’s only guessing. You never know what people bring to Melbourne.”
With Lewis Hamilton referencing “hurdles” that Mercedes needs to overcome, Bottas agrees that the team has some specific problems that are currently being addressed.
“Hurdles or obstacles, there’s always those in this sport, and with a new car. Definitely we have some kind of balance issues we still need to solve. Many things in the car we can still improve.
“I have faith in the team. We’ve been in difficult situations before with the car; we’ve had race weekends where we’ve been underperforming with the car; so any obstacle I feel is possible to overcome. Again, it’s all about hard work and working together as a team for that.
“I trust everyone in the factory and the race team is really making sure that the starting point we have to the season means we are going to be in the best possible shape for Melbourne. If it’s going to be enough to win races, that’s completely unknown at this point but for sure we will try everything we can for that.”