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Bottas perfects strategy, gets lucky in charge to P2 at Silverstone

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Valtteri Bottas edged closer to the summit of the Formula 1 drivers’ championship on Sunday by charging from ninth to second in the British Grand Prix, having perfected his strategy and enjoyed a slice of luck along the way.

Bottas qualified fourth, but was forced to drop back five places after receiving a gearbox change penalty earlier in the weekend, denting the Finn’s podium hopes.

Bottas was able to make up a number of places in the early stages before running deep into the race on the soft tire, making the switch to the super-soft late in order to go on a charge.

After emerging back on-track in fourth place, Bottas overtook Sebastian Vettel before then rising to second when Kimi Raikkonen suffered a tire issue.

With teammate Lewis Hamilton going wire-to-wire for victory, Bottas helped complete a perfect weekend for Mercedes that saw it top every session and leave with maximum points.

“For us, as a team, really perfect weekend given the circumstances, how we started today, me in ninth place. It’s just amazing what we’ve done today,” Bottas said.

“The car was so good to drive today. It was really quick and the team did a perfect strategy for both of us, I think, me and Lewis.

“I did start the race on the soft tire and had to run really long and we actually had to extend the first stint quite a bit because everything was still looking good. Towards the end, when I went to the supersoft, the pace was quick with the fresh tire.

“Sebastian was closing on Kimi. I think realistically he would have been a bit too far away, definitely, for me to get P2 but then I got lucky, on the other hand, he got unlucky to lose his second place.

“But 1-2 is perfect.”

Bottas is now just 23 points shy of Vettel at the top of the F1 drivers’ championship with half of the races run this season, and has scored more points than anyone over the last five rounds.

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.