Valtteri Bottas slammed the critics by suggesting his Mercedes team were sandbagging during Formula 1 pre-season testing in Bahrain last weekend.
Mercedes was unusually in bad shape, with Bottas and Lewis Hamilton struggling to find the candy on the car despite the Finn leading the timesheets at the end of day two at Sakhir.
The world champions had been on the sidelines since testing began on Friday when a gear change issue forced a gearbox change at the expense of precious track time for their new car.
At the end of the final day, in which Bottas was 16th fastest, he told Ted Kravitz on Sky F1: “You know, we’re still testing, so that’s it.” The obvious sarcasm.
After going past the timesheets on the second day, he said of the accomplishment: “It’s so hard to say what that means. I can not jump happy – this is just testing.
“I would say one of the big problems with the car is the rear. It’s pretty crisp and it’s pretty ruthless and that, with the new tires feeling pretty slip sensitive – it’s not that easy. We try to calm the car down a bit and that way we try to speed up. “
“It’s a lot more limited and a lot more compromised this year for everyone. It’s less time in the car before the first race so I would be happy if we could follow the schedule and plan we have for [Sunday] nice and clean, lots of laps and a better feel of the car.
“But I already felt good with the car, confident, and at least sometimes quite fast. So I just need more turns and feel, and I’m happy. “
Summarizing the testing from his perspective, Bottas said: “The first day was compromised for me so I’m happy the last two days were efficient and clean. Today, like yesterday, we did a lot of laps and did some good quality tests.
“I’m still not quite comfortable, but we are moving forward and improving. There is still work to be done; we have collected a lot of data in the last few days that we will analyze to help us make the car faster before the first race.
“The time is even more limited now with the recent changes, but our recovery from day one has been very good. I absolutely believe that the car and the team have the potential to fight for the title.
“I don’t think the package is quite there in terms of performance yet, but I have no doubts it will. I feel like I’ve had enough time in the car, run short and long races, and I feel really comfortable and confident.
“For my part, I am ready and as a team we will be ready,” added Bottas, who will start his ninth season in Formula 1 and chase his tenth victory (and more) this year.