Valtteri Bottas is predicting Formula 1’s title battle to be the closest it has been in years after Red Bull showed an impressive turn of pace in Bahrain winter testing.

Mercedes left winter testing in Bahrain on the backfoot as poor reliability and ill-handling impacted the reigning world champions.

Conversely, Red Bull enjoyed a positive three days of testing at the Bahrain International Circuit, with Max Verstappen labelling the RB16B as “predictable” and an improvement on its predecessor.

 

 

Speaking about Mercedes’ chances ahead of the first race in Bahrain, Bottas said: “As a team we’ve tried to maximize the limited time we’ve had. In testing, Day one was not ideal, but then days two and three were much more productive.

“The time between the test and the first race, that is about to happen this weekend, has been full gas for everyone, trying to find how we can make the package quicker, to make sure we take all the learnings we can for this weekend, and what is the direction to move forward. And it’s such a long season ahead.  

“Up to this point, everyone has worked as hard as possible, including us drivers. As a main threat, you just don’t know and it can obviously change throughout the year but, at least from testing, Red Bull seemed strong. I think it’s going to be closer than any year before, at least recently.”

Despite Mercedes’ struggles in pre-season testing, seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton says it arrives in Bahrain in good spirits and the team remains confident it can turn things around.

“I think we are in the best shape we can possibly be in, considering that we only had three days of testing. There’s been a huge amount of analysis, the engineers and the guys back at the factory have a huge amount of data. Naturally, every team has to do it. See the numbers, crunch time, and make improvements in that short period we’ve had. But I think we come here positive.”

When asked which teams are Mercedes’ main rivals, he added: “Unknown really. I think we will find out when we go out [on track]. But I think there’s multiple teams that look strong.”

 

 

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