Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport‘s Valtteri Bottas believes that he has been able to eliminate the ‘well off the pace’ races that he occasionally suffered from in his first season with the team in the first few outings of 2018.
Bottas has arguably been the most consistent driver on the grid so far this year, after taking three-second place finishes and having a win cruelly snatched from him at the end of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, with debris on track puncturing his tyre and causing him to retire from the lead of the race.
There were times in 2017 when he was vastly off the pace set by team-mate Lewis Hamilton, with peaks and troughs in his performance throughout the year. However, he seemed to have the better of Hamilton in the last few races of last year, taking what many deemed as his best win in the season finale at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi – beating the four-time world champion in a straight fight. This improvement certainly seems to have carried through into 2018.
“This year I have been meeting more or less my targets with the performance for the beginning of the year,” he told Autosport.
“I’ve been able to really continue good performances from the end of last year, and there have been no weekends that I have been way off the pace like there were a few last year.
“So I feel I have learned from those, and need to continue my development. There are never things that you can’t learn more, so I still hope I keep improving.
“There have been quite mixed races, and the end results haven’t been quite there, that I feel would have been possible with the pace we’ve had.”
Last time out at the Spanish Grand Prix, Bottas finished a considerable way behind Hamilton, but he and the team pushed his tyres to the breaking point in the hope that they wouldn’t have to pit a second time, having come in early for the first stop.
“The gap to Lewis was huge, but there were many things that affected that. I’m happy and I know that I can win races, and I know the speed is there for that.
“This year, it’s just extremely difficult, but it is possible, and it will come.”