Published: Thu, March 14, 2019
Sport | By Wendy Sparks

Bottas expects Mercedes to be chasing Ferrari in Melbourne

Bottas expects Mercedes to be chasing Ferrari in Melbourne

But it was Ferrari who sizzled in pre-season testing to emerge as the early favourites in Australia, with Hamilton claiming the Italian team could be up to half a second quicker around Albert Park on Sunday.

Last season we saw Ferrari start off with a bang and they kept up with the tempo.

A Scuderia Ferrari spokesman previously told AFP the team expected to return to using the Mission Winnow logo at the Bahrain Grand Prix, the second race of the season, in late March.

Lewis Hamilton's teammate Valtteri Bottas has made clear that he no longer wants to be cast in a support role at Mercedes.

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McLaren, Williams and Toro Rosso have all new driver line-ups with Brits Lando Norris, George Russell and Alexander Albon aiming to impress in their debut seasons for their respective teams.

"I hope that this year we get to have a lot of fun".

"My last Formula One race was in Abu Dhabi 2010, so I am looking forward to going to Australia with a few things to cover and learn". We've been trying to plan with the team all my sponsor events a bit more in advance so I can plan my calendar a bit more around it, all the details in terms of travel, logistics, hotels, everything to help my wellbeing and performance.

He added: "We are definitely in the fight and we know we have a strong team".

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"It's only guessing where we are going to be but, as we last were on track, we are chasing Ferrari and we'll see where we are here".

New team-mate Leclerc mirrored Vettel's thoughts on Ferrari's expectations, with the Monegasque curious to see if its pace in testing will transfer to qualifying on Saturday. It's a massively long season, and always with some regulation changes like this year is going to be a lot about how much you can improve the auto, because the cars in Abu Dhabi are going to be so much quicker than this weekend. It matters who improves the most. "I'm confident the vehicle will be better here [than in testing], but if it's enough, we'll find out". So whoever is quickest this weekend, it doesn't really matter as long as it's close.

Max Verstappen, who at 17 was the youngest driver ever to start a race, is now a 21-year-old "veteran" in his fifth season and the main man at Red Bull, who also have 23-year-old Frenchman Pierre Gasly racing for them. They employed Sebastian Vettel as their No 1 driver in 2015, after the German won four world championships with Red Bull, in an attempt to find success, but it has not paid off....

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