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Mercedes "guesstimation" leaves Bottas "not far off the sweet spot"

Mercedes "guesstimation" leaves Bottas "not far off the sweet spot"

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Mercedes "guesstimation" leaves Bottas "not far off the sweet spot"

Mercedes "guesstimation" leaves Bottas "not far off the sweet spot"

Valtteri Bottas was left singing the praises of Mercedes' "guesstimation" as he and the team hit the ground running on F1's first visit to Qatar.

A new track should pose initial problems as drivers and teams work out the ideal lines and set-up, yet Bottas managed to get into a rhythm from the off at the Losail International Circuit that has long been a track more suited to bikes than four wheels.

In the more representative evening conditions under the floodlights, following an FP1 run during afternoon sunshine, Bottas was quickest on both the medium and soft-tyre compounds, with his best lap a one minute 23.148secs.

F1 title rivals Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton were down in third and fourth on the timesheet, 0.350s and 0.422s adrift respectively, with AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly managing to get ahead of both.

Asked as to how far he was from the sweet spot, Bottas replied: "Today started nicely with the set-up, and the balance was pretty good in the first run, only minor tweaks to be done for FP2.

"That's an ideal way to start a weekend on a new track, so the team did a pretty good job on the guesstimation of the set-up. It's not far off the sweet spot.

"Obviously, there's always work to do. Driving wise in the two sessions you can't find all the speed there is available so for sure we will keep working."

After claiming pole in three of the last four races, Bottas is so far on course to make it four from five.

Cautiously, he added: "It was good practice but it is practice. We just tried to learn as much as we could but the pace seems okay.

"It's hard to make conclusions but, as I said, the feeling was okay and that's promising for the rest of the weekend."

An area of concern, though, is the track limits, with five corners being monitored by the FIA, with Bottas falling foul at one point as his first soft-tyre run was deleted for running wide at turn seven.

FIA race director Michael Masi initially let the drivers explore the track in FP1 to ascertain where the limits should be applied before imposing stricter measures in FP2.

That left Bottas confused. He said: "With this track, the track limits, all the run-offs are Tarmac so it is quite easy to go off and gain time.

"Even with my fastest lap, there was some confusion, I didn't know what was allowed and what wasn't.

"I'm sure it's going to be a talking point in the drivers' meeting. It's just the nature of the track that's creating issues."

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