Bottas expects Mercedes to be chasing Ferrari in Melbourne

Bottas expects Mercedes to be chasing Ferrari in Melbourne

Bottas expects Mercedes to be chasing Ferrari in Melbourne

Asked if Ferrari were in a better situation now than 12 months ago, the 31-year-old replied: "Yeah quite frankly because last year's winter testing didn't go well for us".

Ferrari were faster this year in pre-season testing and a strong start for them will test arch-rivals Mercedes.

The forecast ahead of this weekend shows no sign of rain, with all three days expected to be clear skies leaving teams able to plan for an uninterrupted weekend.

"Judging from the performance in Barcelona (testing), it looks like we will have a proper fight on our hands in Melbourne". The 29-year-old Finn is now entering his third year with the world champions and says it is time to be more selfish in order to achieve his career goal of winning the world championship.

"I'm looking forward to continuing the dialogue to make sure that it stays in Melbourne ... my view is it's certainly not going to go across the border into New South Wales".

Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen

The four-times champion will bid for a third successive win at Albert Park's season-opener, having foiled pole-sitter Hamilton amid a virtual safety vehicle deployment a year ago.

"I've got great memories of this track".

"It means we both have a fair shot but it's been the same every single year and it's only to a point where one driver doesn't have the chance to win the champion any more if we're lucky enough to be in that position and things shift but generally we're always free to race so I think that's great".

Hamilton was eight points behind Vettel in the drivers' championship before that race but won seven of the final 10 races after that while the Ferrari driver won just one.

"Our optimism is not unfounded", said Red Bull motorsport consultant Helmut Marko.

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Lewis Hamilton topped the first F1 practice session of the new season as Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull proved very-closely matched in the early froes of the Australian GP weekend.

"Hopefully it turns out to be better and easier this year".

"However, it's hard to know what everyone is doing, naturally we won't fully know until we get out in the auto tomorrow and come qualifying you start to get a better picture".

However, he also said, "I hope to enjoy the weekend and that everything will run smoothly without any big issues so I can concentrate on my driving and discover a new Formula 1".

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