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Formula 1 Emilia Romagna GP

Bottas "lost count" of set-up changes made in pre-Imola sim test

Valtteri Bottas says he “lost count” of the number of set-up items he worked through during a recent simulator session to better understand Mercedes’ tricky new Formula 1 car.

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes walks the track

Despite Lewis Hamilton's victory in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, Mercedes thinks it is behind rival Red Bull in pace terms, and knows it needs to make improvements to its W12 in order to continue its unbeaten run of titles in the turbo hybrid era.

With the new car having suffered from balance issues, and a particularly tricky rear end, the outfit is convinced that finding a good setup can help it make big gains.

That is why Bottas spent a good portion of time after the Bahrain Grand Prix working in the simulator at the Mercedes factory to try to deliver what is needed.

“I actually went between the races to Brackley, to the simulator, and tried to work on the set-up, trying to find answers and trying to help the team as much as I can really to unlock the performance,” he said.

“I lost count on how many setup items we tried in the simulator. But at least coming here, I think we have good toolbox of what to choose from.”

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Bottas says that Mercedes’ data suggests Red Bull’s main advantage right now is in high speed corners, while things are much closer in other areas of the track.

“It seems to be that Red Bull at the moment, in higher speed corners, they are quite strong,” he explained. “Otherwise it's really marginal differences here and there.

“But Bahrain is its own type of circuit, and we'll see here, for example. The tarmac in Bahrain is really rough and low grip. 

“Here it is much more grippy and less prone to the tyre overheating on this track, so we'll see how it is.”

Hamilton said that despite his win over Max Verstappen in Bahrain, things looked incredibly close between his outfit and Red Bull.

“I think it’s clear that Red Bull have started off really, really well, with a great package, and Max was driving really well,” he said.

“So it’s set up for a good season ahead. Of course we don’t know what to expect moving forward into these next races with the different temperatures and different track surfaces, but it’s going to be fun one way or another.”

Asked if Mercedes' approach changed now that it appeared to not be the fastest team, Hamilton said: “Nothing changes for us. We approach the weekend exactly the same as we always have. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

“I think we’ve had multiple battles with Ferrari, with Seb when he was at Ferrari. I think we’ve just got to keep our heads down and continue to do what we do.

“We love the challenge, and as I said, it’s exciting for all of us that we do have such a challenge on our hands. It’s not one that we shy away from.”

Although Mercedes believes it has everything to play for against Red Bull, Bottas thinks the team will not get into a position where it will be able to dominate races.

“I think dominating a grand prix this year could be difficult, seeing the starting point, but you never know,” he said.

“But as I said earlier, we've only seen the cars on one track, and we've seen quite a big swing in performance track to track. So, yeah, you never know. But I can't see anyone really dominating this year.”

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