Valtteri Bottas suspects Ferrari’s true pace remains a big threat to Mercedes despite dropping back on the timesheet in second practice ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.

The Finnish driver secured a Mercedes 1-2 at the top of the times at Albert Park, ending FP2 just 0.048s off teammate Lewis Hamilton, while Ferrari duo Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc faded to fifth and ninth respectively.

Vettel believes Mercedes is “in a league of their own” following Friday practice, while he also struggled with his Ferrari in FP2, which is something Bottas has dismissed and sees the Italian manufacturer as a concern for Mercedes given its pre-season testing performances.

“I don’t think we’ve seen all of the cards from any team, yet,” Bottas said. “We know how much we can improve, both for qualifying and the race, but we have no clue how much the others can.

“Ferrari were very strong in winter testing and I don’t think their speed has suddenly disappeared. They are maybe testing something different and we’ll find out tomorrow.”

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Bottas says he isn’t looking too deeply into Friday’s lap times with speculation around which teams are sandbagging to hide its true pace and is focusing on how to extract the maximum from his Mercedes W10 ahead of the 2019 opener.

“It’s maybe for other people within the team to think about it,” Bottas said. “Me, as a driver, I’m trying to optimise the setup of the car and trying to maximise my learning on track, because there’s very limited running before qualifying. I’m only trying to be better lap by lap.

“Then it depends on what you’re testing, how much team decides to sandbag or not, it’s really up to them – I just do my job.”



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