Valtteri Bottas believes Ferrari remain the team to beat following pre-season Formula 1 testing but has faith Mercedes can overturn any performance deficit in the development race for 2019.

Last year Ferrari were fancied as the team with the overall quickest package at the start of the year but Mercedes were able to reel in the Italian manufacturer, coupled with problems Ferrari faced, to see the German squad charge to a historic fifth straight set of F1 world titles.

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With a similar prospect facing Bottas and Mercedes in 2019 as Ferrari appears to an edge on the rest, the Finn feels his squad has work to do but remains on course to deliver key performance improvements for the season opener in Australia.

“The package we had here has been developed for a long time - like the first package - but it was not like after the first week we realised we need to change something and brought something new,” Bottas said about its new aerodynamic package which debuted in the second pre-season test. “It was well planned a long time ago, and I’m sure we’ll try to bring some improvements for Melbourne as well.

“I feel that with the regulation changes, even though it’s not massive, how complex the cars are aerodynamically, from the start of the season to the end of the year I think we’re going to see bigger improvements from each team compared to last year.

“It’s a long season ahead and if we make the right decision with the development path then we’re going to be strong. But everyone is only guessing at this point.”

Despite seeing Ferrari hit by reliability woes during the second test which curtailed its running, including a heavy crash for Sebastian Vettel triggered by a wheel rim fault, Bottas still believes Ferrari have the upper hand heading to the season opener.

“They still seem strong. Ss always from testing to Melbourne a lot of things can change, but they do have a strong package,” Bottas said. “We do need to unlock more from the new package to be able to really compete with them properly but still at this point I think they’re looking very strong.”

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