Bottas: 2019 Mercedes balance currently on a ‘knife-edge’
Mercedes have looked to be keeping their performance cards pretty close to their chest during the first week of 2019 pre-season testing in Barcelona. But although many in the F1 paddock believe there’s an element of sand-bagging going on at the Silver Arrows, Valtteri Bottas has revealed that the current balance of the car is making it a bit of a handful to drive.
Both Bottas and team mate Lewis Hamilton avoided the softest two C4 and C5 Pirelli tyres for the first three days of testing, meaning that Mercedes’ name was uncharacteristically absent at the sharp end of the running. They finally showed some pace on Day 4 after both Bottas and Hamilton donned the C4 compound, dipping below the 1m 18s mark for the first time – but despite that, Bottas confirmed that there was an imbalance in the car that the team were still trying to dial out.
“It seems like, balance-wise, it’s a little bit on the knife-edge at the moment,” said Bottas.
“We’ve been improving massively in the first three days… [and] it’s nothing fundamentally wrong, I feel. I think there is a lot of potential, but it’s not yet quite there. But I feel a sense in the team of a bit of an excitement to discover more about the car and to improve it – because at this point, it looks like we are not miles ahead of everyone. It seems like… Ferrari are in a better place. So I think it motivates us, but obviously we would love to be ahead in Melbourne.”
Bottas revealed that Mercedes would be making improvements on the W10 all the way up to Melbourne, while still having four full days of pre-season testing ahead of them in Barcelona. Still, the Finn couldn’t deny that Ferrari – who grabbed the headlines by dominating the first two days in Barcelona as Mercedes were playing themselves in gently – looked to be a scarily potent force for 2019, judging by their pace in Spain so far.
“They do seem very strong, no matter which kind of fuel load or engine mode they’re running,” said Bottas. “Whatever you try to correct that for, in any case, they are quick – short runs and long runs. I think we feel, at this point, that they’re going to be a bit ahead, but obviously it’s impossible to make detailed calculation.
“With the new rules, it’s going to be a big development race. We don’t think anyone is going, with [the type of car they have] in this test, to the first race, including us – we do have new parts coming before the first race, but we can’t really know that it’s going to be enough. We need… to try and make it better, and quicker.”