Ferrari "a bit ahead" of Mercedes right now - Bottas

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Vettel sang his praises after day one, stating the team had been close to "perfection", but Leclerc is eager for Ferrari to push its testing programme further.

Hamilton and Bottas totaled only 115 laps with both cars on Thursday, while Leclerc ran 138 with his Ferrari. I think we feel at this point they might be a bit ahead, but obviously it's impossible to make detailed calculations. "It's very important for me to focus on myself, on the job I have to do on and off the track with the engineers, without really thinking about what people expect of me off the track", he said.

The five-time world champion beat Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel the last two seasons in the drivers' championship.

"But we have to keep on pushing, the competition looks very strong".

"We have work to do, but it's a good feeling in the sense that it feels like there is potential", said the Finn.

Bottas has been retained by Mercedes for 2019 but knows he must adopt a fresh mindset in order to avoid a repeat of last year's setbacks.

The German team headed the lap count in Barcelona but relative to its arch-rival Ferrari, Mercedes' performance level was a notch below the Scuderia's.

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"With the new rules, it's going to be a bit of a development race, we don't think anyone is going with this type of vehicle in this test to the first race, including us".

"They (Ferrari) have been looking great", Hamilton, who will be chasing his sixth title, told reporters.

Ferrari won the first two races of last year with a vehicle that seemed quicker than the Mercedes but the champion came back strongly and Hamilton ended the year with 11 wins to Vettel's tally of five.

"It is hard because at the end I only drove the auto once or twice but not many laps", he said.

"I just want to make sure that this year I'll do everything I can to achieve those targets and I'm basically willing to do whatever it takes to make sure I achieve those goals". But Prancing Horse new boy Charles Leclerc isn't taking any notice of the times, adding that some teams will be "sandbagging" and not showing their true performance...

"I sense a bit of an excitement in the team, to discover more about the auto and we're really, really trying to improve it, because at this moment it looks like we're not miles ahead of everyone".

"There were some corners that were good, some corners we would have balance issues and other corners we would have massive balance issues".

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