Valtteri Bottas says he is happy with the level of performance he has managed to extract in the opening five races of the 2018 Formula 1 season. 

The Mercedes driver won three races in 2017 as he secured a one-year extension with the German manufacturer but Bottas is yet to appear on the top step of the podium so far this season, though he has taken three second-place finishes in the last four rounds.

Following a crash in qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix - where he went on to finish eighth - Bottas has enjoyed a series of strong performances and was denied victory by just 0.6s by Sebastian Vettel in Bahrain

A brilliant drive in China was undone by the timing of a Safety Car which turned the race on its head and enabled Red Bull to take advantage of a strategy gamble to win, while Bottas also suffered a race-ending puncture three laps from the end when leading in Baku.

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The Finn secured his first front-row start of the season in Spain and sealed Mercedes’ first one-two of the campaign, crossing the line over 20s behind teammate Lewis Hamilton as he nursed his tyres to the finish. 

“I think this year I have been meeting more or less my targets for the performance at the beginning,” Bottas said. “I think I have been able to really continue good performance from the end of last year and there’s been no weekends where I have been really off the pace, where there was a few last year. 

“So I think I have learned from those. I need to continue my development. There’s never things that you can’t learn more and I want to keep improving. There’s been some mixed races where the end result hasn’t been there but I feel like it would have been possible with the pace we have.

“Also the gap to Lewis was huge [in Spain] but I think there was many things that affected that  I’m happy and I know I can win races. The the speed is there to win races but this year it is just extremely difficult but it will come.”

Bottas currently sits third in the drivers’ championship standings having leapfrogged Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen in Barcelona. He is 20 points behind Vettel and nearly 40 adrift of Hamilton, despite appearing to have the edge over Hamilton at a number of rounds so far this year. 

However, Bottas insists he is getting drawn on thoughts about the title fight at such an early stage of the season. 

“We are so early on in the season and I hope that I’ve had my bad luck for the year. We got a good edge on Ferrari in the points but it’s early days. At least I got closer to Sebastian in the points and ahead of Kimi, so that’s good. It’s early on so I don’t really want to think about the points I just want to think race-by-race.”

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