F1 Grand Prix of China - Practice

Claire Williams gives vote of confidence for Felipe Massa

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After a dreary 2013, Williams has moved into the lead pack in Formula One. The Grove gang currently sits third in the constructors’ championship, and their second-year pilot, Valtteri Bottas, has earned three consecutive podium finishes.

On the other side of the coin, veteran driver Felipe Massa has had to swallow three DNFs in his last four outings, including first-lap incidents in the last two races at Silverstone and Hockenheim.

But deputy team principal Claire Williams is not perturbed about Massa’s recent woes.

In a Q&A session on F1’s official website, she insists that the Brazilian has brought just what the team was looking for.

“Felipe is delivering what we hoped that he would deliver and bring to the team: the experience that he has in F1,” she said. “He has done a huge amount of work with the engineering department to develop the car.

“It is a real inspiration to everybody in the team bringing in somebody of his caliber. It was a very strong message that we wanted to deliver to the team and the world that we are very serious about our goals.”

When asked if Massa was feeling uncomfortable about the success that Bottas (91 points, fifth in the drivers’ standings) has experienced, Williams replied in the negative.

“Not at all,” she said. “Felipe is doing a great job – he’s just suffered from some really bad luck. He is mature enough – and has enough experience in the sport – to realize that sometimes things don’t go your way. It isn’t getting him down.”

As for the team’s current run of success, Williams downplayed the thought that her squad is currently at “best of the rest” behind the dominant Mercedes works team.

But she does believe that second-place constructor Red Bull can be caught by season’s end; the defending World Champions currently hold P2 in the constructors’ standings by 67 points.

A second-half resurgence from Massa would no doubt help the cause, but Williams also has confidence that her team can stay on top of developing its Mercedes-powered FW36.

“We have always been a team that has developed our cars over the course of the season – and we have got resources in-house,”she said. “So there is no reason why we shouldn’t continue doing what we are doing now and build on the consistency that we have now.

“I definitely think that we can keep this momentum going. Where we are now is a far cry from where we were at the same time last year.”

Bottas confident after strong qualifying in Sochi

SOCHI, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 10:  Valtteri Bottas of Finland and Williams drives during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on October 10, 2015 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Valtteri Bottas is confident of scoring a good result in tomorrow’s Russian Grand Prix after qualifying third at the Sochi Autodrom on Saturday.

Bottas finished as the ‘best of the rest’ in Q3 behind the leading Mercedes duo of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, beating the Ferrari drivers to secure P3 for the start of tomorrow’s race.

After a difficult run of form, Bottas believes that he can capitalize on this good qualifying result and make the most of the Williams car’s suitability to the track in Sochi.

“It was a strong job by the team today,” Bottas said. “We managed to set-up the car well and maximize our performance.

“I felt very good in the car all day and managed to get in a rhythm quickly and put in consistent lap times despite the limited number of laps we had completed in practice.

“Tomorrow is where it really matters but I have put myself in a very good position to capitalize.”

Bottas’ teammate, Felipe Massa, was less impressive in qualifying as a mistake and traffic caused him to drop out in Q2, finishing P15.

“I made a mistake at turn eight in my first timed lap in Q2, and then in my final two attempts I came up against a lot of traffic which lost me a lot of time,” Massa explained.

“On my final run my tires were gone at the rear and that was the end of my chances. It’s a shame and I’m very disappointed, but I have a quick car around here so we need to have a good strategy and use our pace to move up into the points tomorrow.”

The Russian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 6:30am ET on Sunday.

GP2: Rossi victorious again in shortened Sochi opener

2015 GP2 Series Round 9. Sochi Autodrom, Sochi, Russia. 
Saturday 10 October 2015. 
Alexander Rossi (USA, Racing Engineering) celebrates his win on the podium.
Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP2 Series Media Service. 
ref: Digital Image _SBL3610
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Alexander Rossi claimed his third win in as many GP2 Series rounds in Saturday’s feature race at the Sochi Autodrom.

Since winning the last feature race at Monza in Italy, Rossi has made his Formula 1 debut with Manor and also raced for the team at the iconic Suzuka Circuit in Japan.

As part of his deal with Manor, Rossi has returned to GP2 for this weekend’s round in Russia as he bids to finish as runner-up to impending series champion Stoffel Vandoorne.

Vandoorne was expected to be crowned champion on Saturday, but Rossi managed to delay the Belgian’s celebrations by storming to victory as darkness forced officials to shorten the race.

Carnage on the first lap saw four drivers retire from the race, with damage caused to the barrier at turn 3 by Jordan King resulted in a 30 minute red flag delay.

Once the race restarted, a shortened distance of 15 laps was confirmed, but full points were still to be awarded.

Pole-sitter Alex Lynn managed to pull clear through the first stint, and after falling behind Rossi in the first round of pit stops, the DAMS driver regained the advantage soon after.

However, when Lynn crashed out, Rossi was able to pull clear of the chasing Pierre Gasly and Vandoorne just behind to record his third win in as many race weekends by three seconds.

Rossi will start tomorrow’s sprint race from eighth place on the grid which is reversed, handing pole to Frenchman Arthur Pic who finished P8 on Saturday.

You will be able to read all about Alexander’s success in his exclusive NBC Sports blog on Wednesday. To read his pre-Sochi thoughts, click here.