By Abhishek Takle
MANAMA (Reuters) – Formula One’s Australian season-opener left Valtteri Bottas with a winning feeling that the Finn is determined to hang on to in Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
The 29-year-old Mercedes driver, who started the year in meaner and more aggressive mood, took a crushing victory in Melbourne two weeks ago to finish more than 20 seconds clear of team mate Lewis Hamilton.
The result handed him the maximum 25 points for the win plus an extra point for setting the fastest lap.
Buoyed by the margin and finding himself heading the championship standings for the first time, albeit with 20 races remaining, Bottas must try to stay ahead at Bahrain’s Sakhir circuit.
“When you feel you are performing at your best is a beautiful feeling,” the four times race winner told reporters on Thursday. “I now just need to keep the momentum and feel that again soon.”
Bahrain has been one of Bottas’s stronger venues in the past.
The Finn scored his first Formula One pole position around the 5.4-km layout and came within a second of snatching victory from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel last year.
He is aware, however, that he could face a far tougher challenge on Sunday from Briton Hamilton and a resurgent Ferrari than he did in Australia.
“We were all positively surprised on the performance we had in Melbourne but… it is a bit of a funny circuit,” said the Finn.
“I would say here this weekend and (at the next race in) China, we’re going to get a much better picture of the real performance at this point of the year.”
(Editing by Alan Baldwin and Ken Ferris)