Testing time for Hamilton makes it advantage Bottas

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Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas has accepted he holds an early advantage over the British driver whose testing schedule has been scuppered by bad weather.

Defending champion Hamilton could finish the opening three days with only 25 laps under his belt – the least of any driver this week – after Bottas was given an entire day behind the wheel on Tuesday.

The third instalment of pre-season practice at the Circuit de Catalunya on Wednesday was effectively a washout following a deluge of snow here on the outskirts of Barcelona.

In contrast to Hamilton’s limited running, Bottas has already racked up 152 laps of testing, the equivalent of two and a half race distances.

“The miles in these conditions are less valuable than proper miles in proper conditions, but I will take it,” Bottas said.

“I love to drive as much as possible and I definitely have a better understanding of the car [than Lewis] because of the mileage.

“Lewis however, will soon get a good idea of the new car and he is quick to adapt.”

Hamilton, 33, was due to test on Wednesday but the track was closed for much of the morning with the medical helicopter unable to fly in the torrid conditions.

The circuit opened for business shortly before midday, but it is unlikely the teams will complete any significant running with the high risk of damage to their cars.

Fernando Alonso was the first driver to emerge from his garage as he completed one lap in his McLaren before returning to the pits. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo headed out for only one exploratory lap, too.

Bottas finished 58 points adrift of Hamilton last season and recorded six fewer victories than his team-mate after spending much of his first Mercedes campaign in the Briton’s shadow.

But the 28-year-old Finn is optimistic he can get on top of the four-time world champion when the season starts in Melbourne on March 25.

“Every driver has a weakness, but rather than focus too much on Lewis I am going to spend my energy and focus on myself and my performance on track,” Bottas added.

“If I perform on the level I am aiming for at every single race, I hope that will do the job, but I am not going to start wasting my energy on mind games.

“Last year I did not perform on the level I should have and I learned a lot from that. It was tough because I wanted to perform after the August break but I had a few difficult races.

“I have learned massively all through my career as there have been tough times, but that is what makes you stronger and that’s how you learn.”

The opening winter test concludes on Thursday with four further days of practice here next week before the new season gets under way in Australia.

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