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Bottas’ F1 title hopes fade further with anonymous Malaysia showing

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Valtteri Bottas saw his fading Formula 1 title hopes take another hit after an anonymous run to fifth place for Mercedes in Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix.

Bottas had been closing on leading pair Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel before the summer break, only to slip back since F1 returned to action at the end of August.

Sitting 51 points behind Mercedes teammate Hamilton heading into the weekend, Bottas said he was still not yet ready to give up his hopes of the championship and throw his support behind the Briton.

However, Bottas may be left to reconsider after struggling for pace throughout the weekend in Malaysia, qualifying and finishing fifth despite putting pressure on eventual winner Max Verstappen early on.

“Today was difficult. I was trying everything I can, I was giving it all I had, but I was lacking pace and I was sliding around,” Bottas said.

“The start was definitely the best part of the day. It was really good, I could actually attack a little bit and fight for positions. But not long after that I just started to drop down and couldn’t keep up with the others.

“In the first stint I had quite a lot of understeer, so I was struggling with the balance. The story of the race was managing the tire temperatures. If I tried harder, then I started to overheat the tire and slide even more, so I had to manage everything and that’s why I was so slow.

“We need to analyze the race because the upgrade package should have been quite a step forward in terms of downforce, but I couldn’t really see it. There are still a lot of things we need to try to understand, we need to learn from today.

“For Japan, we need to make sure we choose all the right bits for the car, and hopefully we will see some cooler temperatures.”

Bottas will head to next weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix 59 points back from Hamilton with five races remaining this season.

F1 2017 driver review: Kevin Magnussen

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Kevin Magnussen

Team: Haas
Car No.: 20
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P7 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 19
Championship Position: 14th

Kevin Magnussen’s move to Haas proved to be a win-win situation for both parties through 2017 as they banished the struggles of the previous Formula 1 season.

For Magnussen, the move came after a difficult one-season stint with Renault who despite offering him a way back into F1 after a year on the sidelines were unable to produce a car allowing the Dane to fight far up the order.

Haas had not expected to be able to be that much further ahead, but Magnussen nevertheless immediately offered an uplift in performance after replacing Esteban Gutierrez, who failed to score a single point through 2016.

Magnussen picked up Haas’ first points of the season with a solid drive in China, and was able to capitalize on the bonkers Baku race to take P7, which would ultimately be his best result of the season.

Consistency was a real issue for Haas throughout the year as it continued to have teething problems most new teams encounter, and while Magnussen was more able to drive around the problems than teammate Romain Grosjean, he lacked the ultimate pace of his teammate.

That said, Magnussen’s season highlight came in Mexico, a track Haas expected to be its worst of the season. The ex-McLaren driver qualified on the last row but produced a stunning display to finish eighth, soaking up pressure from Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton late on.

The signs are positive moving forward. Next year should be Haas’ best yet thanks to the stability in the regulations, presenting a good opportunity for Magnussen to prove his star quality.

Season High: Taking P8 in Mexico when Haas expected to be slowest.

Season Low: Lagging home P15 at Spa as Grosjean hit the points.