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Valtteri Bottas

Bottas delivers 'immediately clear' verdict on new F1 challenger

Valtteri Bottas completed 68 trouble-free laps on the opening morning of pre-season testing in Bahrain

Bottas winter testing Bahrain Day 1
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To news overview © XPBimages

Valtteri Bottas believes he is "definitely in a better place" following a smooth start to F1 pre-season testing in Bahrain.

Bottas completed 68 laps of the Bahrain International Circuit in the Stake F1 Team's C44, with his best a one minute 34.431secs, albeit irrelevant in the early stages of the three days of the test that serves as a precursor to next week's opening grand prix at the same circuit.

The Finn was relieved to avoid issues, as was the case for the majority of the drivers on track. Alex Albon was the only exception after pulling over late on in the four-hour pre-lunch session with a minor problem.

For Bottas, the over-riding feeling was relief given the difficulties he encountered with the C42 and C43 following the introduction of new aerodynamic regulations at the start of 2022.

Asked for his thoughts on the new car, speaking to media in the paddock including RacingNews365, he replied: "Better than the C43, that's immediately clear, which is good, and which is something we predicted, at least with the correlation to the simulator, which is what we've been predicting. It more or less feels like it should.

"So definitely improvements have been made over the winter with this new car and that's good to see, but then the real question is how much the others have improved. That's something we will see next week.

"The next days, we'll be getting a bit more towards fine-tuning and finding more and more performance. Today is not the day to focus on lap time.

"But we have made a good step forward, which is good to feel, good to see, but we still need to discover more because on the first day, you start conservatively with the setup, with the ride heights and everything. We haven't been chasing performance, it's more about learning."

As to the main areas of improvement, Bottas said: "For me, the two biggest changes are high-speed load and stability, which we have definitely been lacking the last two years, and also drag. I immediately felt the car was a bit less draggy, which was an issue for us last year.

"So we're definitely in a better place. The rear stability in the higher speed has definitely improved, which was quite a big weakness last year, and we sometimes got a bit boxed in with the setup because of that, so now it feels like we will have more setup options and a pretty good base car to work from."

Asked by RacingNews365 as to the improvements he would like to see made to the car over the remainder of the test going into the season-opening race, he said: "We have a pretty clear plan.

"There's nothing fundamentally wrong with the car. We still haven't been on the optimal ride height, so I think there should be more performance in there, but first, we need to learn how much we can push, and with the stiffness (of the car), but so far, nothing is fundamentally wrong.

"With the balance, there's work to do. It's only the first real touch of this car. We kind of kept a certain baseline setup and tried a few things from there, so there's definitely some work to do with the balance."

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