Valtteri Bottas is hopeful that Mercedes will overcome its struggles on the softer tyre compounds experienced through Formula 1 pre-season testing heading into this weekend's season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

Mercedes laid down an impressive long-run pace through the winter running in Barcelona earlier this month, but appeared to struggle to make the softer compounds in Pirelli's tyre range work as well, experiencing high levels of degradation and blistering.

Teams will have the Ultrasoft, Supersoft and Soft tyres available at Albert Park this weekend, with Bottas explaining there was a lot of guesswork involved following the shift in Pirelli's approach to make each compound a step faster than its equivalent from 2017.

"Definitely there are a lot of question marks, and we have only really tested the tyres properly with the new car in Barcelona. It’s a unique track and it was resurfaced so we don’t have that much data for the whole season yet," Bottas told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday.

"For the first race, Melbourne is a very different circuit, so for sure we have had to estimate many things with the car set-up and the tire allocation - how many different sets we will be using - so I think Friday practice is really going to be crucial.

"At least in Barcelona our car was working well. We had some difficulties working with the softer compounds, but this is Melbourne, it’s different, so hopefully it’s going to be good here."

Mercedes has been tipped by many to lead the pack once again in 2018 as it bids for a fifth consecutive set of championships, but Bottas remained coy about its chances heading into the new season, with rivals Ferrari and Red Bull aiming to be in contention at the front.

"We’ve only had testing in Barcelona and it’s a very special circuit and it’s very different to Melbourne," Bottas said.

"The car we had there was good. We know that long straights normally haven’t been a weakness for us, so we expect to be strong in Melbourne, but if we’re going to be ahead of Ferrari and Red Bull? We can’t promise that.

"You never know what they can bring to the first race in terms of upgrades and so on, so there’s plenty of question marks around.

"We know we’ve got a good car, but we don’t know how good the others’ cars are."


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