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Bottas escapes penalty, but not blame, for Verstappen, Raikkonen clash


Valtteri Bottas, Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen started third through fifth in today’s Spanish Grand Prix, but their races all were compromised as a result of a three-wide passing attempt off the start that went awry into Turn 1.

Both Bottas and Raikkonen got good starts with Raikkonen having done a better job to get to Bottas’ outside after the run to the tight, 90-degree right-hander that opens the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

But worse for Raikkonen was that Verstappen had moved to Raikkonen’s outside, and once Bottas darted to the inside it was three-wide going into Turn 1.

Bottas knocked into Raikkonen, who then knocked into Verstappen. Both Raikkonen and Verstappen were done shortly thereafter, while Bottas went through without damage.

The race stewards investigated first the Raikkonen and Verstappen portion of the incident, and later Bottas’ role in it, but took no further action after the chain reaction contact.

It didn’t mean Bottas escaped blame, though, as both of last year’s top two finishers in Spain opted to blame the Russian Grand Prix winner for the contact.

“I think you could clearly see what happened. Valtteri hit Kimi, and it was difficult for Kimi to control the car,” Verstappen told NBCSN’s Will Buxton post-race. “Normally three cars (wide) is doable. If we didn’t touch, we would have given space in the next corner.

“It was a bit unfortunate. When you’re on the outside it’s tricky. I gave Kimi room on the inside but he got slammed into me. Last year I had a bit of luck and today was a bit unlucky.”

Raikkonen was, perhaps true to form, even more succinct about what happened from his vantage point.

“I got hit by Bottas, then my car went into Verstappen,” Raikkonen told Buxton.

Bottas didn’t have much to add later on, as he was more disappointed after his engine expired just past half distance, which cost him a likely third place finish and Mercedes key points in the Constructor’s Championship.

With these three drivers knocked out, it opened the door for Daniel Ricciardo to get on the podium in third place, albeit more than a minute behind Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, who dominated the race between them and finished first and second.

Raikkonen at least had one small upside to his day, meeting a young Ferrari fan who was disappointed he got knocked out just after the start.

Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.