Valtteri Bottas has laid down the gauntlet to his Formula 1 rivals by stating that his Mercedes W11 is fast, but “can be faster”.
Hamilton set a fastest time of 1m16.976s, 0.337s faster than his team-mate, and that time was set on a harder compound tyre.
Bottas was also two tenths clear of the Red Bull of Max Verstappen and the Mercedes driver was impressed that he could head straight out on to the track and instantly complete long runs, such is the reliability of the W11.
Speaking about the first day of pre-season testing, Bottas said: “I’m very impressed that we could start at 9am, going straight out and doing some longer runs without any issues and really execute our plan for the morning perfectly.
“We could get everything done which is just impressive considering how much work goes into our cars.
“In the morning when it was still relatively cold, we focused mostly on aero tests with rakes on the car.
Later on we did some work on set-up changes – bigger changes than we would normally do on a race weekend when it’s more about fine-tuning.
In testing you have the chance to do that and see how the car reacts to those big changes.”
Bottas was able to get to grips with the W11 before his team-mate Hamilton, with the world champion taking over for the afternoon session, and the Finn was pleased with how the car felt and commented that it gives the team a great platform to build on.
“I had a very good feeling, the car feels good and fast, but I’m sure we can make it a lot faster.
“It’s been a really nice starting point, but it’s early days, so it doesn’t mean a whole lot.”
With the Mercedes able to get down to serious running straight away, the team was able to get through its procedural tests quite quickly, and Mercedes Technical Director James Allison confirmed that the team were able to focus on optimising suspension set-ups, and will look to push the W11 harder as the week goes on.
“That was a very positive start to our winter testing campaign, with both drivers able to get a very decent amount of work done through the day.” commented Allison.
“We were able to tick several of the procedural items off our list that we need to get done before Melbourne and also run through some of the main set-up items on suspension settings today.
“We’re happy that alongside the good reliability we’ve shown today, both drivers have reported the car to have sweet handling characteristics and are looking forward to leaning on it a bit harder over the next several days of testing.”