Ross Brawn feels Valtteri Bottas has shown “grit and determination” to take the fight to Lewis Hamilton during the early rounds of the 2019 Formula 1 season.

The Mercedes pair are separated by just a single point in the drivers’ championship having both claimed two wins apiece from the opening four races, with Bottas holding a narrow advantage thanks to his additional fastest lap point from the Melbourne season-opener.

Bottas endured a tough winless 2018 campaign but Brawn has praised the manner in which he has bounced back.

“Valtteri Bottas has managed to raise his game to fight against an extraordinary champion in Lewis Hamilton,” Brawn said.

“I have seen for myself how a driver can suffer, consciously or not, from being in the same team as a truly great champion and Lewis is one of the greatest we have seen.

“It can be incredibly intimidating and cause a driver to fall below their true ability. Getting out of that mindset can be difficult and takes a lot of effort, especially on the mental side.

“Valtteri has managed it and he has shown grit and determination in the first four races and especially in the way he has taken the fight to Lewis in qualifying has been really impressive.

“The duel between the two Mercedes drivers is definitely wide open, with Bottas and Hamilton only separated by the point scored by Bottas for fastest lap in Australia.”

Mercedes has made history by becoming the first team to start an F1 season with four consecutive one-two finishes, an achievement which Brawn believes sets an “incredible standard” for the year ahead.

“It’s never been done before - four one-two finishes in the first four races of the year is an incredible result and it sets an incredible standard for this season,” he said.

“Congratulations therefore to Mercedes who are showing once again this year that they’re not prepared to rest on their laurels.”

However, Brawn is backing Ferrari to fight back against Mercedes at the coming races.

He added: “At the moment, a negative response would seem logical, given that Mercedes has taken four consecutive one-two finishes, but I feel there is still time for Ferrari to fight back, as it showed in two of the four races that it has what's needed to win.”

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