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Bottas set for five-place grid drop at Suzuka after F1 gearbox change

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Valtteri Bottas will receive a five-place grid penalty for this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix after the Mercedes Formula 1 team was forced to change the gearbox on his car.

FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer noted in his post-practice briefing on Friday at Suzuka that the gearbox on Bottas’ Mercedes W08 car had been changed since the last event at Malaysia, with the previous unit not completing the six required races.

As a result, Bottas has been referred to the stewards, who will hand him a five-place grid drop for the race in Japan on Sunday.

Bottas currently finds himself going through a rough patch of form that has seen him fall out of contention for the world championship, with the Finn now set to support teammate Lewis Hamilton’s bid for the drivers’ crown.

Bottas finished fifth-fastest in practice on Friday at Suzuka, albeit over a second slower than Hamilton, and knows there is more work to do to make up the time.

“In practice one, the car did feel better than it did in Malaysia, but we still need to work on things to make the car quicker,” Bottas said.

“As a starting point for the weekend, it definitely feels better than a week ago. My run with the soft tyres was good, but with the super-soft, I didn’t really gain any grip.

“So the main thing for me is to understand the super-soft performance. The long runs actually weren’t too bad, and hopefully we’ll see better weather tomorrow.”

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.