Valtteri Bottas came away from the first three days of 2020 pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya with the fastest lap time of anyone, after having ‘fun’ on Friday stretching the legs of the W11.
While much of the spotlight on Mercedes this week has been on its controversial new Dual Axis Steering system, it was a nice change for Bottas and his team mate Lewis Hamilton to be able to get back to work setting top times.
Bottas finished the first week of testing by setting a new milestone of 1:15.732s after completing 65 laps in the morning. Hamilton was second fastest for the day with a time of 1:16.516s set during his post-lunch stint, having previously been fastest on the opening day of the test on Wednesday.
“It’s been really fun today, especially getting to do some shorter runs and being able to push the car a little bit closer to the limits,” said Bottas.
“I enjoyed it and it felt really good out there,” he added, saying he was pleased to get to see “a little bit more of the performance of the car.”
“It feels like we made a step with the set-up since yesterday. The car is very driveable and I’m sure with some more hard work next week, we can make it better, which will be the goal.
“Overall, it’s been a really good first test,” he said. “A big well done to every single team member to deliver the car and engine – great job! I’m looking forward to getting back in the car next week.”
While reliability was generally excellent, the team did hit a problem on Thursday afternoon when Bottas found his track time curtailed by an electrical issue.
“After the brief hiatus of yesterday, it was good to get a solid day of uninterrupted, reliable running today,” noted the team’s technical director James Allison.
“It’s been a good first week, the car has been broadly reliable, and the performance has been reasonably good throughout the week.
“Both drivers completed a programme of set-up work and an early look at the softer compound range. Just a very quick glimpse of that, but really useful preparation for the second week of testing where we have more of the soft rubber to bring.
There are, of course, many things to work on and we’ll be trying to do that in week two, but it’s a really good baseline.”
Allison was understandably reluctant to extrapolate how Mercedes stood in relation to their rivals such as Ferrari and Red Bull at this point.
“At the end of this first week, we start to get some sort of feeling for where all the teams are in the pecking order,” he said. “Especially now a few race distances have gone down.
“But it will be really interesting in the second week as our estimates start to refine further.”