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Missing out on Monaco podium ‘painful’ for Bottas

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Missing out on a podium finish in Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix felt “painful” for Mercedes Formula 1 driver Valtteri Bottas as he was left to settle for fourth place at the checkered flag.

Bottas qualified third in Monaco, just 0.045 seconds off Ferrari pole-sitter Kimi Raikkonen, and held position through the opening stint of the race.

Red Bull opted to bring fourth-placed Max Verstappen into the pits early, forcing Mercedes to stop Bottas just one lap later in order to cover the Dutchman, only for this to allow Daniel Ricciardo – who had been P5 – to jump ahead after staying out longer, recording quick laps on the ultra-soft tire.

Bottas had a brief chance to grab third late on when Ricciardo made a mistake and touched the wall, but ultimately finished fourth, narrowly missing out on a maiden Monaco podium.

“Missing out on a first Monaco podium is painful. It’s been a long week and we’ve worked so hard, so it’s disappointing to miss out,” Bottas said.

“I was stuck in the traffic while Daniel was running in free air and ultimately, that cost me a place on the podium. It’s been a really tough weekend for us and we’ve just been missing pace.”

With Red Bull tag-teaming Bottas by splitting its drivers’ strategies, Mercedes F1 chief Toto Wolff felt after the race there was no way to retain third.

“We had exactly two choices: lose against Max or lose against Daniel,” Wolff said, as quoted by the official F1 website.

“When Max pitted Valtteri complained that his tires were going off, so we needed to protect him against an undercut from Max – and hope that Daniel would not be able to extract more performance in that period.

“Actually Daniel did some amazing laps – similar to what Sebastian [Vettel] did in the front. So at that stage of the race it was already clear that we would lose against one of the Red Bulls.”

Monaco saw Ferrari seal its first one-two finish in seven years and re-take the lead of the constructors’ championship from Mercedes, with Bottas’ teammate, Lewis Hamilton, taking seventh.

“Ferrari were very strong this weekend and for whatever reason, their car seems easier to operate, so we have work to do,” Bottas said.

“We have to learn from this, but there’s a long year ahead. Hopefully this will be our worst weekend this season. Canada should be a different story.”

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.