Valtteri Bottas was left “puzzled” by the poor handling of his Mercedes Formula 1 car during the race simulations in Friday practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Bottas ended second practice in Bahrain fifth fastest overall, 0.371s off the pace set by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
The Finn struggled during the race simulations and his frustrations were heard over team radio: "It's undriveable," Bottas told his engineer in the latter stages of FP2.
While Bottas wasn’t completely happy with the handling of his Mercedes W12, he feels the team has made a step forward compared to pre-season testing.
“First of all, it felt better than in testing, in terms of how the car was feeling, etc. so that’s good, but it also felt like we’re not quite there yet with the car balance,” Bottas said.
“At least it was a trouble-free day, with no big issues, but now the main thing is my mind is that we still have plenty of work to do if we want to fight for the pole and for the win.”
When asked about his radio message, he explained: “Yes, the last long run we did was pretty inconsistent, and I couldn’t really put any laps together as the car was, as I said, undriveable at times. A bit puzzled but it’s Friday and that’s why we practice.”
Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton ended the second session in third, just over 0.2s off top spot.
Like Bottas, he agrees Mercedes has made gains since testing but concedes it still ‘has a hill to climb’ if it is to beat Red Bull.
“This weekend it’s looking better but still not perfect,” Hamilton said. “So we are just working as hard as we can. We’ve got great people in the background like Rich, who is always so efficient with setting up the wings and I’m always just amazed by the work he is doing back there.
“I know we still have a hill to climb but we’re staying positive.”
The seven-time F1 champion wasn’t surprised to see Red Bull and his former team McLaren on the pace in Bahrain.
“We thought Red Bull would be as fast as they are, if not faster,” Hamilton added. “So we know they are leading at the moment. McLaren are looking great and it’s great to see them taking a step. It’ll be interesting to see how the long runs are.”