Bottas delighted to qualify fourth for Spanish GP

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Williams driver Valtteri Bottas has made no secret of his happiness after he secured fourth place on the grid for tomorrow’s Spanish Grand Prix during qualifying today.

The Finnish driver has finished in the top ten at every race so far this season, and currently leads experienced teammate Felipe Massa by 12 points. The team has certainly made a big step forwards after a tough 2013 that yielded just five points, but given the capability of the FW36 car, just one top five finish appears to have sold Bottas and Massa short.

However, today in Spain, Bottas proved that he is in the fight to score his first podium finish in Formula 1 this weekend by sticking his car on the second row of the grid.

“It has been quite a tough weekend up until now,” he explained. “I had to build a lot of confidence but it all came together when it mattered and I managed to get a good lap. We have made some set-up changes since FP3 and they worked well but it will be even better in the race.

“It’s difficult to overtake here and so qualifying is important. It’s going to be a close race behind the Mercedes and so I am really looking forward to tomorrow.”

Williams’ Head of Vehicle Performance Rob Smedley was also elated with the result. “I am very happy as the session went really well,” he said. “The pace of the cars was excellent. It is a hot track that demands a lot of downforce and the upgrades we brought here have really helped that. The pieces we have brought have worked really well.”

Massa could only qualify in ninth place on Saturday, but Smedley is confident that the Brazilian can make up for it in the race tomorrow.

“Felipe has qualified out of position as he was very fast in Q1 and Q2 but didn’t quite get the best final lap,” he explained. “There is a lot of work to do for tomorrow, but we are looking positive and are after some good points.”

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya holds some fond recent memories for the team, having been the site of its last grand prix victory in 2012 courtesy of Pastor Maldonado. Although a win might not be on the cards this weekend, there’s certainly a chance that Bottas could follow the Mercedes drivers home on the podium.

Robert Wickens in the Indy 500? Bryan Herta making plans to field a car for next year

Robert Wickens Indy 500
Brett Farmer/LAT Images/IMSA
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Bryan Herta wants to enter Robert Wickens in the Indy 500 as early as 2024 – a year longer than preferred as work continues on the hand controls needed for the paralyzed driver.

Wickens suffered a spinal cord injury in a crash at Pocono Raceway in his 2018 IndyCar rookie season. He’s worked as a driver coach for the Arrow McLaren IndyCar team since, but last year with Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai returned to racing in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

The 33-year-old Canadian won a pair of races (including the season opener at Daytona) driving a Hyundai Elantra N-TCR that is fitted for Wickens to race strictly through hand controls. Herta said Thursday that perfecting that technology for an Indy car in the biggest race in the world has slowed the project he’s determined to do with Wickens.

‘I’M AS HUNGRY AS EVER’: Robert Wickens’ return to racing

“I’d love to take Robbie back to Indy because I know he could do that, and I think that would be a next step for him in his journey,” Herta told The Associated Press. “We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the logistical side of things, hand controls, and I think we have solutions for that.”

Herta said Honda has been supportive of the process, which Herta called “one of the most important things we’ve done in racing” last year.

“We actually looked at doing it this year, but the logistics of it, the timing, it just wasn’t enough,” Herta said. “That’s not something you can rush. There’s some things that we have to work very closely with IndyCar on, and things we just have to get right. It’s a process, but I can see a path to it.”

Wickens, when told his boss was openly discussing the Indy 500, grinned widely. Herta as a team owner won the Indianapolis 500 with Dan Wheldon and Alexander Rossi.

“That’d be fun,” he said of running the Indy 500.

But like Herta, Wickens said the effort has to be both done correctly and be competitive.

“We’d like to do it right. If we started right now, can we get a car ready for the open test in April? Probably,” Wickens told The AP. “But I don’t know where the systems would be and I want to get on proper simulators to make sure its correct.

“We all want to do a proper, professional effort,” he added. “I don’t want to do it for a marketing campaign. I want to do it for a chance to win.”

Wickens in 2021 did a demonstration in Canada that marketed advancements for paralyzed drivers and gave him a chance to again drive. His entire life had been upended 14 races into his rookie IndyCar season, just three months after winning top rookie honors at the Indianapolis 500.

Wickens has since married, returned to racing last year and welcomed the birth of his first child, an son named Wesley whom is infatuated with both race cars and the trip to Disney he took this week during the off days at Daytona International Speedway.

Wickens, who uses a wheelchair but can stand with some support, marks a full year back racing on Friday in the season-opening IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race. Despite success last season, Herta made changes to his lineups and Wickens this year will be teamed with Harry Gottsacker.