Valtteri Bottas issues Mercedes rallying cry ahead of Bahrain GP alongside Lewis Hamilton

F1 preview: A lap of the Bahrain Grand Prix

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Valtteri Bottas has insisted that he will be looking to battle with the likes of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell of Mercedes when the five red lights go out to start this afternoon’s Bahrain Grand Prix. The Finn was dropped by the Silver Arrows at the end of last season but managed to qualify ahead of his replacement in Russell at the end of Saturday’s session.

Bottas turned plenty of heads with his impressive pace for Alfa Romeo, who were one of several Ferrari-powered teams to qualify well at the Bahrain International Circuit. He managed to secure a sixth-placed finish at the end of Q3 to ensure that he will be lining up alongside fifth-placed Hamilton on the third row of the grid this afternoon.

The latter struggled to trouble the likes of Ferrari and Red Bull over the course of Saturday’s running, with Mercedes still having trouble in dealing with the same problems that plagued their efforts in pre-season testing. The German outfit are working hard to solve the ‘porpoising’ issue that is a by-product of the ground effect on this year’s new cars and has left them well adrift of their Constructors’ Championship rivals at this early stage.

Bottas spoke of his desire to take advantage of his former team’s struggles by bringing the fight to them when asked to sum up his performance in qualifying after the end of Saturday’s session. “I think our race pace, if anything, looked better than our single-lap pace so we’ll see,” he told F1’s official channels.

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“I think Ferrari, Red Bull, I feel like they’re a bit out of reach for everyone. But who knows? Maybe we can battle with Mercedes, that would be fun.”

Bottas spent five successful years at Mercedes between 2017 and 2021, helping the team to win Constructors’ Championship titles at the end of each season. He was eventually replaced by Russell, who only managed to qualify in ninth place for this afternoon’s race after a turbulent session on all fronts.

The 24-year-old underlined his frustrations at the end of the day as he insisted that Mercedes have plenty of work to do in order to claw back their performance deficit as a matter of urgency. “We only had one set of tyres and I really pushed on my out lap, I got to Turn 1 and I just had no grip,” Russell told Sky Sports F1.

“I went one second slower than I did in Q2 and I was expecting to go a couple of tenths faster. That was a real shame, but I’m glad I tried something. Obviously, P9 is much lower down than where the car is, but we’re doing everything we can to try and get the car back to the front.”

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