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

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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.

McLaren almost back on schedule with 2018 F1 car after delay

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McLaren is almost back on schedule with its 2018 Formula 1 car development after losing two weeks due to a delay in deciding on its engine supplier, according to racing director Eric Boullier.

McLaren confirmed back in September it would be cutting ties with Honda at the end of the year after three difficult seasons, favoring a switch to Renault power units.

The decision was not taken lightly by McLaren, causing it to lose two weeks in the development of next year’s car, but Boullier confirmed in an interview with the official F1 website that the team is almost back on-track.

“Maybe we made the decision to change the engine manufacturer two weeks too late for our schedule, but these two weeks have almost been recovered,” Boullier said.

“Any big decisions are always difficult to take. The concept of McLaren winning with Honda was a dream for everybody, yes – it was a beautiful story.

“Today we have huge respect for them and we definitely don’t divorce with fights and screams and finger pointing. We are all very professional – and in the end it was a business decision, which they understand.

“There is a sadness that it didn’t work out like we wanted. McLaren-Honda in terms of brands was a good fit – in terms of results it didn’t work.

“That’s what it is in the end. Now we have to see that we get back to competitiveness – back to the top!”