Football, Rugby, UFC, GAA
All free when you join eir Broadband
Valtteri Bottas believes that it will be difficult for “anyone to challenge” Mercedes, with Nico Rosberg beating the Finn to top spot in testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
On the opening day of the final test ahead of the upcoming season, Rosberg's best lap was just two tenths of a second faster than that of the Williams driver.
However, the German's top time was set on the soft-compound tyres, while Bottas completed his best circuit using the quicker super-soft tyres.
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel has been amongst those to suggest that Mercedes, dominant in the two previous campaigns, could be under greater pressure from their rivals this season. Bottas, though, feels that Tuesday's outing shows that the Silver Arrows squad retains a significant advantage.
"At the moment, it looks like they're in a really strong position," said Bottas when asked about whether Mercedes could be genuinely battled for major honours in 2016.
"Where we are right now, it looks like it will be quite tricky for anyone to challenge them at the beginning of the season. That is the fact at the moment, but let's see what happens.
"I'm sure that we'll still progress a lot. We know there's plenty more to come."
According to Bottas, it appears that he and teammate Felipe Massa are once again set to fight rival teams to be the best of the rest, rather than competitors to Mercedes, at least during the early stages of the season.
"I have one day left (of testing the car), so what I have so far is progression from last year, and what I've said before is that it's so difficult in fine detail to say where we are.
"Mercedes look strong but I hope we can fight with Ferrari and Red Bull."
McLaren's Fernando Alonso was third quickest, despite being halted temporarily by a technical glitch, and managed to run an encouraging 93 laps without major problems concerning the team's Honda power unit.
Kimi Raikkonen and Daniil Kvyat finished fourth and fifth respectively, with the Ferrari man having lost time due to stopping out on track, while the Red Bull racer suffered a delay because of a brake-duct issue.
Teething problems also severely restricted the running of Manor and the new Haas squad.
Hamilton took over from Rosberg for Mercedes in afternoon, posting the sixth fastest time whilst completing a full-race simulation.
Toro Rosso's Max Verstappen was the marathon man of the day, managing a massive 144 laps.
Pre-season test, Day 1, Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
Pos. Driver, Team, Time/Gap, Laps
1. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:23.022, 82
2. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, +0.207, 123
3. Fernando Alonso, McLaren, +1.713, 93
4. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, +1.814, 72
5. Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull, +2.027, 69
6. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, +2.029, 90
7. Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso, +2.154, 144
8. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, +2.314, 121
9. Felipe Nasr, Sauber, +2.471, 103
10. Kevin Magnussen, Renault, +2.738, 119
11. Esteban Gutierrez, Haas, +3.639, 23
12. Rio Haryanto, Manor, +4.603, 45
By David Maher