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Bottas leads final Japan F1 practice despite early crash (VIDEO)

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Valtteri Bottas closed out practice for the Japanese Grand Prix leading the timesheets for Mercedes despite crashing early in FP3, completing just nine laps in total on Saturday morning.

Mercedes was eager to bounce back and respond to Ferrari’s Friday pace at Suzuka, and did so early on as Bottas and teammate Lewis Hamilton rose to the top of the order with quick laps on the soft compound tire.

Bottas’ early time of 1:29.055 proved quick enough to give him P1 come the checkered flag despite only featuring in the first third of the session.

FP3 at Suzuka was interrupted by two red flag periods, the first coming after 20 minutes when Bottas hit the wall at the exit of Spoon, leaving debris strewn across the track.

Bottas was able to limp back to the pits, albeit with significant damage to the right-rear corner of his Mercedes W08 car that meant he was unable to get back out on-track as the team completed repairs.

The session returned to green 10 minutes after Bottas’ shunt, only for the red flag to return not long after when Kimi Raikkonen ran wide at Degner 2 and slid into the barrier, damaging the left-hand side of his Ferrari.

Friday’s limited running meant many teams did not chase outright lap time in FP3, with Bottas’ lap going unbeaten through the session as Hamilton finished just 0.014 seconds further back in the second Mercedes.

Title contender Sebastian Vettel did flirt with a quick lap late on for Ferrari, but ultimately finished three-tenths of a second behind Bottas on the super-soft tire.

Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo completed the top five for Red Bull, while Esteban Ocon led the close-knit midfield in sixth for Force India ahead of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg.

Ocon and Hulkenberg’s respective teammates, Sergio Perez and Jolyon Palmer, completed the top 10 behind McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, who finished eighth-fastest.

Qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 2am ET on Saturday.

Takuma Sato’s likeness revealed on Borg-Warner Trophy (PHOTOS)

Photos; Walt Kuhn
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INDIANAPOLIS – Rather than the traditional December unveil, this year’s reveal newest likeness added to the Borg-Warner Trophy came Tuesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.

Takuma Sato got to see the result of the sculpting done by William Behrends and then turned from wax, clay and ceramic into sterling silver on Tuesday evening, as the winner of the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil saw his face revealed on the trophy.

Sato took the No. 26 Ruoff Home Mortgage Honda for Andretti Autosport to the win in thrilling fashion this year over Helio Castroneves, denying the Brazilian his fourth Indianapolis 500 victory in the process. It atoned for his near-miss in 2012, driving for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, the team he’ll return to in 2018.

It’s been a whirlwind last week-plus for Sato, doing the podium interviews at the Japanese Grand Prix, reflecting on his Indianapolis 500 triumph, then sharing the victory spoils with another Japanese pilot in Yoshihide Muroya, who won the Red Bull Air Race World Championship at Indianapolis this weekend.

Photos of Sato’s face on the most unique trophy in sports are below. This post will be updated following tonight’s full unveil. (All photos: Walt Kuhn)