Valtteri Bottas rues “tricky” Free Practice 1

Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

After fuel system and suspension issues plagued his morning, Valtteri Bottas has said that there is more for Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport to unlock going into the thick of the Australian Grand Prix weekend.

Despite the problems, Bottas finished the morning second, half a second adrift of team-mate Lewis Hamilton. In the afternoon, the Finn fell behind Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen, yet managed to close the gap to Hamilton by three-tenths of a second after surviving an excursion into the gravel trap at the slippery Turn 3, caused by a lock-up.

Bottas insisted that the issues discovered in a “tricky” morning session were minor and was encouraged by the feeling of the car in the afternoon.

“FP1 was tricky for me,” mused Bottas.

“We had a bit of an issue with the suspension and also with the fuel system, so it was difficult to get a good comparison.I don’t think these issues are something to worry about, just something we discovered in the session.

“In second practice the car felt a lot better but there’s still more to unlock.”

Bottas thanked the Mercedes team for their early season efforts and echoed team-mate Hamilton’s thoughts on the potential competition posed by Red Bull and last year’s main challengers, Scuderia Ferrari. The former Williams Martini Racing driver seemed unsurprised by the increase in performance by their two expected rivals, but hinted that Mercedes are suitably prepared for any tests thrown at them.

“I have to say thank you to the team because we are looking strong at this point, so I think it’s a good start,” he added.

“It’s good to be back on track and go racing. It’s looking really close between us, Ferrari and Red Bull but that was more or less expected. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

“We got some information for the long runs if it’s a dry race, we got some tyre data and we can see that a lot of things are behaving differently to testing in Barcelona because it’s much warmer and it’s a different tarmac. We’ve definitely learned a lot and we’ll keep on learning.”