Valtteri Bottas says there is plenty more to come from the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team as the Finn began the French Grand Prix weekend by finishing inside the top two in both Friday practice sessions.
The Finn endured a nightmare Azerbaijan Grand Prix two weeks ago, with Bottas failing to score points on what was a very under par and lacklustre weekend around the Baku City Circuit.
But it appears Bottas has returned to form this weekend at the Circuit Paul Ricard as he topped the morning session before taking second place to Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen in the afternoon, with the gap at the top just 0.008 seconds.
“I have a lot better feeling than a couple of weeks ago, that’s for sure,” said Bottas. “We started the weekend on the front foot, everything felt OK and the car has been pretty fast so far.
“The balance is good, the tyres are working well, I’m confident with the car and I can trust the car – I think that’s the biggest difference from Baku.
“It’s going to be close between us and Red Bull, I’m sure they have lots more to come, but so do we.”
“It was quite a struggle out there, probably for everyone” – Lewis Hamilton
Team-mate Lewis Hamilton admitted it was a difficult day in the second Mercedes, although the reigning World Champion finished inside the top three in both sessions on Friday.
Hamilton feels the tyre pressures enforced by Pirelli this weekend may have made an effect as he felt the tyres were sliding across the track, and as a result, it appears the harder tyres are likely to be the ones most will want to use on race day.
The seven-time champion finished second to Bottas in the morning session, but slipped to third in the afternoon, more than a quarter of a second down on Verstappen’s session topping time.
“It was quite a struggle out there, probably for everyone,” said Hamilton. “I don’t know if it’s the track surface, the temperature or these inflated tyres – the pressures are higher than ever before – but we were all sliding around out there.
“We’ll be doing a lot of analysis tonight with the hope that it’s better for tomorrow, but the times don’t look terrible and we’re in the battle, so that’s positive.
“The Hard compound is the better-feeling tyre, it felt heavy-duty which is important with the temperatures here – the softer you go the worse it feels so I imagine the Hard tyre will be the one everyone wants to get onto in the race on Sunday.”