Valtteri Bottas predicts Mercedes will have a better car at the Australian Grand Prix than it had during pre-season testing — but is unsure if it will be enough to catch Ferrari.
The two pre-season tests in Barcelona were topped by Ferrari, with Sebastian Vettel setting the pace and Lewis Hamilton ending up 0.003s adrift on the final day. Behind the headline times, Ferrari appeared to have a comfortably quicker car than Mercedes, but Bottas believes improvements made ahead of Melbourne could reduce that gap.
“In testing it seems like (Ferrari) had a good few tenths, definitely, but here is such a different track,” Bottas said. “And we don’t know how much they’ve improved. I’m sure with analyzing everything and making some improvements we’ve been able to recover some of that, but how much is only guessing.
“I saw Seb’s onboard and it looks pretty stable! They have a very stable platform, and we definitely have work to do on that. That was the feeling for both Lewis and I — that it wasn’t yet the easiest package to drive — but I think the team has reacted well. We had some good meetings last week in Brackley and got the kind of latest updates on what they’ve found in their analysis and I’m confident the car will be better here. But if it’s enough, we’ll find out.”
While Ferrari stands out as the fastest car ahead of the opening race, Bottas says the potential of Red Bull should not be underestimated, and expects performance between all three to change as the season goes on.
“What we see from testing, we think (Mercedes is the underdog). We’re going to be kind of chasing. We’re still quite unsure about how Red Bull will be. We think they’re going to be strong because Honda looks strong now as well and they’ve always had a good car. Over the past two years, the way they’ve been able to improve the car during the year has been pretty rapid, so for sure they’re going to be a threat as well.
“We are definitely in the fight and we know we have a strong team. It’s a massively long season, and always with some regulation changes like this year is going to be a lot about how much you can improve the car, because the cars in Abu Dhabi are going to be so much quicker than this weekend. So whoever is quickest this weekend, it doesn’t really matter as long as it’s close. It matters who improves the most.”