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.
Valtteri Bottas hopes to show ‘more muscle’ in 2018 💪
— Formula 1 (@F1) February 28, 2018
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.
The Finn, who joined the team as an emergency replacement for 2016 world champion German Nico Rosberg in January this year, has committed to Mercedes for another year.
But he told reporters ahead of this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix that he has no intention of being seen as a number two driver to Hamilton, the four-time world champion who has already taken the 2017 title.
“Even though he is a really, really good driver and very consistent, I also need to believe in myself,” said Bottas. “I can’t put myself in a place of number two, otherwise I would rather stay at home.”
Bottas’ form has been under scrutiny as Mercedes battled to complete a fourth consecutive constructors’ championship and he fought to overhaul German Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari and take the runners-up spot in the driver standings.
In his maiden year with the team, Bottas has recorded his first Formula One wins and pole positions, but struggled for consistency.
Hamilton has been faster than Bottas in qualifying in 13 of the 18 races and has won nine times while Bottas has own twice.
Bottas added: “This year I have learned massively and I want to see it as kind of a learning year for me with the team, but starting next year with the people I know it’s going to be quite different and I just need to go for it and learn from all the hard times.”
Non-executive chairman Niki Lauda heaped praise on Mercedes new boy Valtteri Bottas on Monday and said he was a “very good replacement” for retired 2016 champion Nico Rosberg.
The three-time world champion Austrian admitted he was very surprised to see how calm the 27-year-old Finn remained under intense pressure in the closing laps of his maiden Formula One triumph in Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix.
“The first win, the first Grand Prix win, in a racing driver’s life, is always the most difficult,” Lauda told reporters. “I know from my own experience.
“I remember mine very well because Emerson Fittipaldi called me – who was the world champion – and he said ‘Congratulatons! The next one will come easier’ and it was true.
“I told Valtteri the same thing. His next one will come easy now he has proved he can win.”
Lauda added: “He surprised me a lot because it’s his first race victory under such difficult conditions with Vettel in a better combination behind him. Honestly, he did a fantastic job.
“I’ve never seen anyone like him under this kind of pressure to win his first Grand Prix. He can’t do a better job than that.”
As praise poured in for the unflappable and popular Finn, Lauda was quick also to point out that it was too early to talk about an extension to his one-year contract.
“We are talking about this year,” he said. “I want to win this year. We have had no discussion about next year at all. This weekend, Valtteri did a perfect job — all that we expected of him.
“And, for sure, he is certainly a very good replacement for Nico!”
* From AFP