While Valtteri Bottas remains upbeat with his qualifying performances compared to Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton he still feels work needs to be done on his race pace to match the five-time Formula 1 world champion in the title race.

The Finnish driver comes into the French Grand Prix having seen a 29-point gap grown between himself and Hamilton at the top of the standings after finishing down in fourth place last time out in Canada as his teammate took a controversial victory following Sebastian Vettel’s time penalty.

Despite making key mistakes in qualifying in Canada, spinning on his first lap in Q3 before not maximising his final run which put him down in sixth place, Bottas feels content with his improvements in qualifying but laments an ongoing pace deficit he has compared to Hamilton in races.

“It is very competitive this year but it had also been the years before,” Bottas said. “Now it’s been pretty close between Lewis and me, closer than ever in qualifying and also, from my side, in terms of race pace it has been better than 2017 or 2018. But still the race pace is one of the things I need to improve and focus on, in different tracks, in different kinds of conditions.

“We’ve got quite a big amount of points and that shows how competitive it is, so it’s going to be all about small margins and taking the opportunities in each of the race weekends.”

Despite not finishing on the podium for the first time this season in Montreal, Bottas feels he can recover the lost points in the championship with two-thirds of the season to go starting this weekend in France.

“There are still 14 races to go, that’s a long way and I think the momentum is going to change from one to another during the year,” he said. “For different reasons, I haven’t quite been able to maximise the points in the last two races, but nothing has changed.

“I’ve done a complete reset after Montreal and try to move on here. I definitely know what I can do, I don’t really think too much about that stuff, I just need to focus on myself and be at my best.”

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