Bottas expects three-team battle in Australia after 'weird' testing games

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Valtteri Bottas heads to Australia expecting a three-team battle for victory on the streets of Albert Park.

The Finn ended pre-season testing with the two fastest times across the full six days, but his best time on Friday was less than a tenth faster than Red Bull's Max Verstappen with Charles Leclerc less than two-tenths back in fourth for Ferrari.

So while the general consensus seems to be Mercedes is still the package to beat in Melbourne, Bottas isn't making any predictions yet.

"From testing, it’s impossible to draw detailed conclusions of where you are," he said.

"We felt we really struggled last year in testing and then we were really strong form in Melbourne, so you never know what other packages teams are bringing to the first race from testing.

"Even from testing times, it’s tricky to read. I still think it’s going to be three teams challenging, at the beginning of the season at least, for wins."

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What makes gaining an accurate read so difficult in testing is the lengths teams go to hide their true pace whether it be with fuel loads, engine modes etc.

And that has particularly been the case this year, with all three top teams using every trick in the book.

"It’s a weird game in this sport sometimes with how much you’re showing your speed in testing," Bottas said.

"Only the teams themselves know the true form they have. They can calculate and add up everything in terms of performance, what lap time they could do in theory, and we can only guess what other teams are running and how much they have in their pocket.

"It’s so difficult to say. We’ve also learned as a team it’s very important to keep focusing on our own work and own performance, doing our job, and eventually, the time will come that everyone will show their cards."

Another factor to consider is the somewhat unrepresentative weather teams test in for much of the winter.

"You always need to remind yourself that the conditions here are pretty unique," Valtteri added.

"Especially in the mornings and late afternoons, the air temperature is something that you do not see for the Grands Prix.

"The track temperature in the mornings is really cool, which allows you, for example in the long runs, allows you to push really hard because the tyres don’t really overheat in those conditions.

"We know there will be quite a big difference in Melbourne, it’s quite a different track obviously, but even coming back to Barcelona in May, it’s quite a different feeling then in the car.

"We know more or less what to expect, but we need to keep reminding ourselves [of the difference]," he concluded.