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Bottas glad to step up for Mercedes in Brazil after Hamilton crash

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Valtteri Bottas felt pleased to have been able to step up for Mercedes and grab Formula 1 pole for the Brazilian Grand Prix on Saturday after seeing world champion teammate Lewis Hamilton crash out early on.

Hamilton and Bottas looked poised to scrap with Ferrari racers Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel for pole at Interlagos after a close-fought final practice, only for Hamilton to crash out in Q1.

Bottas was left to fight the Ferrari duo alone, but took his third F1 pole with a stunning final lap in Q3 after seeing Vettel lose time following a mistake at the first corner.

The result came less than 24 hours after a number of Mercedes team members were held at gunpoint by robbers, making it a significant response.

“I feel good – still a bit shaky. It’s a good feeling,” Bottas said moments after stepping out of his car after qualifying.

“It was very exciting, so close between Sebastian and me, and also Kimi sometimes, in the qualifying, so I got a good lap in the end.

“It was a shame Lewis was out from the start but I’m happy I could step up for the team.”

“It’s really good to start on the pole here. We have a good car. It’s going to be a close race still with Ferrari, but I’d rather start from pole than, for example, from P3.

“I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Bottas will be joined on the front row of the grid by Vettel, with the Ferrari driver sitting 15 points clear in the race for second in the F1 drivers’ championship.

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.