F1: Bottas unveils new helmet for new season
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Valtteri Bottas has urged Mercedes to strive for maximum efficiency this season in order to stand any chance of beating Red Bull to the Constructors’ Championship title. The Silver Arrows have enjoyed an overwhelming dominance in recent seasons, claiming the honours in every year since 2013, but appear to be faced with a genuine threat this time around from Red Bull’s charge led by Dutch sensation Max Verstappen.
The 23-year-old claimed his first race victory of the new campaign at Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, holding off the threat of seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton after squeezing past the Stevenage-born pole sitter on the opening lap.
The Mercedes talisman leads the Drivers’ Championship by a single point after winning the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix and claiming the fastest lap at Imola, but is likely to face a tough test in sealing an unprecedented eighth title this season.
Red Bull appear to have overtaken the German outfit in terms of car performance, with Mercedes lagging behind for the most part since pre-season testing.
A number of regulation changes mandating alterations to the floor area have forced the Silver Arrows into sacrificing a significant amount of downforce, a setback that has allowed Verstappen and Red Bull to close the gap.
Bottas, who crashed out of the race at Imola after he was hit by George Russell of Williams, has claimed that Mercedes need to step up to the plate quickly in order to regain their advantage.
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“I still believe we can catch them,” he told the F1 website when quizzed on the improvements needed to fight back.
“I still believe from the feeling in the car that there is more to unlock from it. If we can get the balance right, if we can get the car to be more drivable, the true corner balance more reliable with understanding and fine-tuning the set-up, there’s more to come.
“23 races is a long time to learn about the package, and it just means we need to be more efficient than the other teams.
“We know Red Bull are good at in-season development but we just need to out-pace them.”
Mercedes will be hoping to continue their winning ways at next month’s Portuguese Grand Prix in order to stretch their fragile lead at the top of the Constructors’ Championship table.
Hamilton snatched pole position at Imola against the odds, with Verstappen fully expected to end up leading the pack into the first corner, to provide the Silver Arrows with the hope that their situation will get better as the season grows older.
After the session, team principal Toto Wolff highlighted their lack of cutting edge when compared to last year, but suggested that the car has already improved since pre-season testing and the first race in Bahrain.
“The pole was a surprise because at the moment we do not have the quickest car,” Wolff told reporters.
“It was so close and Max, without the mistake, would have been on pole. But the loss compared to last year is just enormous.
“We were six tenths ahead and now we are two tenths behind. So we need to scratch our heads and just try to find the performance.
“It’s a quicker car than in Bahrain. I think we have got the car in a better balance window, that’s the main reason for the improvement.
“We had some drivability concerns in Bahrain and we are sorting that out. Slowly, we are getting there.”
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