Valtteri Bottas has denied claims that Mercedes are "miles ahead" of the other competitors in Formula One and believes the Silver Arrows are in for a "tough season" up against the likes of Ferrari, Red Bull, and a resurgent McLaren outfit.
The Finn is embarking on his second full season with Mercedes and disappointed in the opening Grand Prix of the campaign in Melbourne, finishing in eighth place.
Many believe that Mercedes have by far the best engine at their disposal and the championship this season could be won at a canter by the Brackley outfit, but Bottas has vehemently shot down these suggestions and reckons the team are in for a fight to win their fourth title in a row.
"It seems very close. Ferrari obviously won, they were first and third, but they also won here last year," Bottas said of the Australia Grand Prix.
"I think it’s going to be a close season. We’re not miles ahead. I think Lewis really got everything right in Q3, maybe the other teams' drivers didn’t get everything perfect.
"So I think it’s going to be a big battle and it’s going to be a tough season. Definitely, the pace of all the teams is much closer,
"I also think that this year, the cars have more downforce, and with the way the aerodynamics work in the cars, it’s even more difficult to follow than last year, so the losses are bigger."
Bottas' contract with Mercedes expires at the end of the current season and there is speculation that, if his on-track performance does not improve, he could be replaced as the partner of Lewis Hamilton.
Some of the names being touted for the role include Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull and Esteban Ocon of Force India, who is part of the Mercedes-Benz driver development programme.
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