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Crashes, penalties give F1’s Finns difficult Saturday at Suzuka

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Formula 1’s Finnish contingent had a difficult Saturday ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix as both Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen encountered crashes and penalties at Suzuka.

Bottas’ five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change was confirmed on Friday, but the Mercedes driver’s plight deepened when he crashed into the barrier exiting Spoon in FP3, damaging his car.

Bottas was able to bounce back in qualifying and finish second behind teammate Lewis Hamilton, only to lose his front row spot due to the grid drop. He will start sixth after the grid is re-jigged.

“With the incident I had in FP3, there was some extra work for the guys. They did really well to get the car together, it worked perfectly,” Bottas said, having also qualified for the race on the soft compound tire.

“It’s been a tricky weekend, not quite so clean so far, and going slightly over a kerb in FP3 can make a massive difference. I had to reset and go for it.

“It’s going to be a long race, but it’s just a real shame [to drop back]. It would have been better to start one and two as a team. That would have been nice, but it is what it is.”

Bottas’ struggles almost mirrored those of compatriot Raikkonen, who also crashed out in FP3 after making a mistake, running wide at Degner 2.

Ferrari was forced to change the gearbox on Raikkonen’s car ahead of qualifying, giving him a five-place grid drop. Like Bottas, the 2007 world champion opted for an alternate strategy, also taking soft tires.

However, Raikkonen was not able to match his fellow countryman for pace in Q2, and will start the race 10th following his penalty.

“It was not a great start of the day to go off track this morning in FP3, not the ideal preparation for qualifying. After that, everything got more difficult, but the team did a great job to get the car back in one piece,” Raikkonen said.

“In qualifying the car felt OK, but it was a bit tricky. The biggest issue was the limited running we had had with new tires in the morning. In Q3, when I really had to push, I made a mistake in the first run and I had a pretty average lap time in the second one. Now I pay the price for my mistake.

“After my crash, we’ve got a five places penalty for replacing the gearbox. This obviously complicates our race even more.

“Tomorrow it’s not going to be easy, but I think that we have a good car for the race.”

The Japanese Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from midnight ET on Sunday.

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)