Valtteri Bottas believes that Williams has lost ground on Mercedes and Ferrari over the winter and is further behind the leading teams than in the past two years.
Bottas has led Williams’ charge up the grid in Formula 1 in recent years, taking it to third place in the constructors’ championship in 2014 and 2015.
The British team had hoped to charge this upturn in fortunes into a challenge against the big manufacturers in 2016, but has struggled in the opening two races of the season.
Bottas and teammate Felipe Massa ran second and third at the end of the first lap in Bahrain, but dropped back through the race to eventually finish towards the bottom of the top 10.
Speaking in Thursday’s FIA press conference, Bottas acknowledged that Williams had lost ground on Mercedes and Ferrari compared to previous years, and instead faces a tougher challenge from the midfield teams this season.
“I’s been quite a tough first couple of races, and especially for me pretty unlucky, things happening, and just looking forward to getting a nice, clean weekend and seeing what kind of results we can actually do with a proper weekend,” Bottas said.
“But it seems that it’s going to be a really tough year, very close. Ferrari and Mercedes are definitely more far away now that in the last two years.
“So that’s unfortunate but we just need to keep trying and getting closer and yeah after that we are in that field of a few teams – Red Bull and Toro Rosso, they seem to be very close – so every single bit we can improve this season is going to make a big difference.”
The Chinese Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 1:30am ET on Sunday.