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Bottas: It's been the most challenging start to the season

Mercedes failed to grab the headlines in F1 pre-season testing and Valtteri Bottas has admitted the team go into the opening race in Bahrain on the backfoot.

Valtteri Bottas believes he can still win this year's drivers' championship despite a difficult pre-season test for Mercedes. The world champions struggled to get to grips with their new car as Bottas and Lewis Hamilton appeared failed to impress throughout the three days of running at the Bahrain International Circuit. Bottas suffered a gearbox issue which limited him to just six laps on Friday whilst Hamilton made some uncharacteristic mistakes, spinning the W12 into the gravel trap on the second day of testing. Nevertheless, Bottas is confident the team can come back from their setbacks. “I absolutely believe the car and the team, it has the potential [to take the title],” Bottas told F1TV. “I don’t think it’s yet there as a package in terms of performance, but I’ve no doubt that we will work hard to find it somehow. “I’m still not fully comfortable. We’ve been going forwards, I think, with the set-up of the car and understanding of the car, and getting it to behave better, but still there is more work to do, and from these busy few days, there’s lots of data that hopefully can help us to make the car faster when we race here.” Bottas embarks on his fifth season with the Silver Arrows as the team look to win their eighth consecutive constructors' title in 2021. However, he has admitted this has been the worst start to his campaign during his time at Mercedes. “With this team, it’s definitely been the most challenging start to the season in terms of testing,” said Bottas,. "Time is even more limited nowadays, so it's definitely not ideal. “But, at least I feel that the recovery has been pretty good in the last couple of days, I feel ready. I felt like I had enough time in the car. "I feel with the short runs, the long runs, really comfortable with everything and confident, so from my side, I’m ready, and as a team, we will be ready, no doubt. As ready as anyone else and hopefully even better.” The 2021 Formula 1 season begins in under a fortnight's time on March 28 at the Bahrain International Circuit.