Valtteri Bottas has dismissed claims that his team has started the year with a significant advantage over its rivals, insisting Mercedes is likely in for a "tough" season.
The Finn was in no position to fight at the front of the field in Melbourne following a crash in qualifying which led to a three-spot gird penalty for a gearbox replacement and an insurmountable task on Sunday given the challenges linked with overtaking at Albert Park.
Team mate Lewis Hamilton looked set to conquer his 63rd career win before an Virtual Safety Car period set him back just enough for arch-rival Sebastian Vettel to pick up the winning baton.
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Thanks to Hamilton's pace however Mercedes had proved its point, leading pundits to say the Silver Arrows squad is already "miles ahead" of its opposition.
Bottas discounted the claim however.
"It seems very close. Ferrari obviously won, they were first and third, but they also won here last year," said the Finn.
"I think it’s going to be a close season. We’re not miles ahead. I think Lewis really got everything right in Q3, maybe the other teams' drivers didn’t get everything perfect.
"So I think it’s going to be a big battle and it’s going to be a tough season."
The 28-year-old Merc driver also sees a battle royal taking place in F1's entertaining mid-field.
"Definitely the pace of all the teams is much closer," he added.
"I also think that this year, the cars have more downforce, and with the way the aerodynamics work in the cars, it’s even more difficult to follow than last year, so the losses are bigger."