Red Bull chief Christian Horner predicts Valtteri Bottas to be immediately on the pace compared to Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes and dismissed predictions the Finn would be 'just a number two' driver.

With Formula 1 gearing up for the 2017 season opener in Australia Bottas will make his competitive debut for Mercedes at Albert Park having replaced last year's world champion Nico Rosberg who retired from the sport just days after clinching his title.

With the majority of F1 drivers signed up for 2017, Mercedes were left in a tricky situation with a world title-contending race seat left vacant alongside Hamilton but were able to entice Bottas away from Williams with Felipe Massa completing to retirement U-turn to return to the Grove-based team.

Horner, who says Mercedes approached Red Bull about the availability of their drivers for 2017, predicts Bottas to be competitive from the off and the German manufacturer has gained an attribute despite the exit of the reigning F1 world champion.

"I think Valtteri Bottas was a good choice for Mercedes," Horner said. "Williams's loss was Mercedes's gain. I am sure he'll be competitive as he has been very quick in the lower formulas so I wouldn't dismiss him to being just a number two just at the moment."

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Horner also repeated his claims that Red Bull has the most exciting and potent driver line-up on the F1 2017 grid in Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo and made it clear none of Red Bull's drivers would be available to Mercedes this season.

"I'm very comfortable with our two drivers we've got and wouldn't want any others," he said. "Niki [Lauda] likes to talk as well all know and he does a lot of talking. He made an enquiry but it was quite a short call."

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