Mercedes driver Valteri Bottas slipped on the lycra ahead of this weekend’s season-opening Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix, riding with Australian professional cyclists Baden Cook and Peta Mullens along St Kilda Beach in typically windy Melbourne conditions on Monday.
“I always love a bike ride, it’s always good fun,” he said to the assembled media attending the press call.
“Today is maybe not the perfect day, but I guess Melbourne can be like this sometimes. It was good fun and nice to meet the cyclist. I’m maybe not as good on two wheels as I am on four, but I still do a lot of cycling myself for training – motorbike and road cycling – so it’s always good fun and really good for fitness.”
Landing last Friday, Bottas has used the time to relax and prepare for the usual opening race at Albert Park that he hopes sets him up for a successful year.
“It’s going to be the first time on Thursday [to have a look at the track], getting ready for the weekend. I just can’t wait to get started again, but [it’s] a new season ahead and hopefully a successful one.
“I have big goals. I need to try and step up my game and start the season well here in Melbourne. Last year, I was third here in the race so there is an opportunity to get [a] better [result].”
However, the three-time race winner has outlined there are still some stones left unturned coming into the weekend, particularly trying to set up his Mercedes W09 from the differing track characteristics between the newly resurfaced Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya circuit the field visited for pre-season testing to the bumpy street circuit layout at Albert Park.
“Definitely there is still a lot of question marks and we’ve only tested the new tyres properly with the new car in Barcelona,” he added.
“It’s [Barcelona] a unique track, it was resurfaced, so we don’t have that much data for the whole season yet and for the for the first race. Melbourne is a very different circuit, so for sure we have had to estimate many things with the car setup [such as] with the tyre allocations and how many of the different sets we are going to be using.
“I think the Friday practice is really going to be crucial. But based off Barcelona, our car was working well. [We had] some difficulties with the softer compounds, but this is Melbourne, it’s different and hopefully it’s going to be very good [for us].
“The long straights haven’t been a weakness for us, so we expect to be strong in Melbourne. If we’re going to be ahead of Ferrari and Red Bull, I can’t promise anything. You never know what they’re going to bring to the first race in terms of upgrades and so on. There’s plenty of questions marks around and we know we have a good car, but we don’t know how good the others are.”
Bottas also made note of Red Bull Racing’s chances this season, helping bring them into the picture with the likes of Ferrari and his Mercedes crew.
“I think Red Bull is going to have a good chance this year. I think they showed some good speed in testing, but like I said, we still need to see what kind of upgrades they’ll bring. Daniel [Ricciardo] obviously is a very good driver, also his teammate [Max Verstappen] so for sure they’re going to be a threat for us.”
But has the pressure raised for Bottas this year after settling into the team? As he enters his second year with Mercedes, Bottas is confident in saying he can produce more this season.
“There’s definitely less pressure [for me]. I’m starting my second year with the team, I learnt so much from them last year and we can just really get on with it and focus on the results and the performance. I got my first race wins, my first poles that’s all done now I just need more,” he said.
“For sure I need to always try and perform on a good level and especially if Lewis is having a bad day or race for any reason. I need to be able to fight for the win of the race. I’m just going to really focus on my performance day-by-day, session-by-session, lap-by-lap and try to be at my best every single time on track.”
With a solid third position in his debut race for the Silver Arrows, Bottas still admitted to having a weakness at Albert Park. He hopes to overcome with his recent success in the works team.
“I haven’t found [Albert Park] to be one of my strongest circuits in the past. I’ve always had a bit of mixed results [here], but that’s something I want to change.
“I can’t have bad races for myself, I got to be consistent and competing at every place. I think there was some positives in the race last year, so hopefully, we can build on that and be quick in qualifying as well.
“I hope we can start the season strong. Ferrari got us here last season, so I hope we can be ahead [in 2018], but like I said, Red Bull can be a threat as well. It’s all exciting [being] the first race of the year, but what’s going to happen in Melbourne in terms of results it’s not going to be fixed for the season because it’s going to be another massive year of development [wars between teams] until the last race. It’s going to be an interesting year.”
Images via Luke McCullough and Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team