Bottas and Williams cast in Abu Dhabi spoiler role from second row


Williams’ Valtteri Bottas has qualified third once again to round out the season in Abu Dhabi (7 a.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra). The Finn has now done so in four of the final five Grands Prix, and thus been in the top three in nine races this season.

Either Bottas or Felipe Massa could play spoiler to the Mercedes’ teammates respective World Championship hopes if either was to get between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton into second place.

“It was a nice quali. We got a really good lap in the end,” Bottas said. “It was not easy to beat them, so it’s good to be third and fourth again.”

Bottas, though, was doubtful that he or Massa will be able to get in-between the Mercedes, citing their pace advantage not just on one-lap pace, but long runs as well.

The Williams-Mercedes second row lockout is the team’s third straight and fourth in the last five races.

For Bottas, it’s about returning to the podium for the first time since Russia and moving back to fourth in the standings – a place he lost last race at Brazil due to belt issues affecting him during a pit stop.

He enters the weekend three points behind Sebastian Vettel in fourth and two behind Fernando Alonso in fifth. Provided Bottas finishes ahead of both of them in the points, he should return to that fourth place position in the championship.

Williams can’t catch Red Bull for second in the Constructor’s Championship and should hold onto third over Ferrari.

Williams holds a 44-point lead over Ferrari, and will retain third provided Ferrari doesn’t score at least 50 points via a third and fifth-place result, and Williams fails to score at all.  It’s unlikely to happen but thanks to double points, it’s possible.

Bottas has five podium finishes this season and looks for his sixth Sunday evening.

NTT re-signs as IndyCar title sponsor in multiyear deal starting with the 2024 season

James Black/Penske Entertainment

The IndyCar Series has re-signed NTT as its title sponsor in a multiyear agreement starting in 2024.

NTT, a global information technology and communications company based in Japan, became the series’ title sponsor before the 2019 season after starting as a sponsor of the No. 10 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing.

NTT Data (a subsidiary of parent company Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp.) will remain the official technology partner of IndyCar, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indy 500 and the NASCAR Brickyard weekend.

With the extension, an IndyCar spokesman said NTT would become the second-longest title sponsor in series history. The longest title sponsor was PPG from 1980-97 (under the CART sanction of the Champ Car Series).

NTT replaced Verizon, which was IndyCar’s title sponsor from 2014-18 after IZOD from 2010-13.

“NTT is an excellent partner across our enterprise with strong expertise and a deep commitment to our sport,” Penske Corp. chairman and IndyCar owner Roger Penske said in a release. “From Smart Venue technology at the Racing Capital of the World to the reimagined Series mobile application, NTT is transforming the fan experience in new and innovative ways. We look forward to a bright future together.”

NTT has used artificial intelligence-enabled optical detection technology at IMS to provide information to the track’s operations and security teams, helping improve fan traffic flow and safety, the track said.

“IndyCar is a great partner for NTT Data because of our shared commitment to driving innovation, increasing sustainability and delivering amazing experiences,” NTT Data CEO Kaz Nishihata said in a release. “We also appreciate how IndyCar is so diverse, with drivers from 15 different countries, and races that range from short ovals and superspeedways to road and street courses. It’s both an incredible sport and a wonderful example for our world.”

NTT also has been instrumental in helping redesign the IndyCar app and providing more race and driver data for use in NBC Sports’ broadcasts by utilizing 140 data points from every car in the field.

“NTT is fully invested in the development and growth of our sport and has already established a terrific track record in our industry with problem-solving capabilities and access to top talent and tools,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said.

Said NTT Data Services CEO Bob Pryor: “We’re thrilled to continue our collaborations that enhance and expand the fan experience for motorsports and serve as proof points for data analytics, AI, and other innovative digital technologies. For more than a century, this racing series has pioneered innovations making driving safer for everyone, and by continuing this relationship, we will accelerate the pace of innovations and new technologies, particularly related to sustainability that ultimately can benefit organizations, communities and individuals around the world.”

Starting as a Japanese telephone company, NTT grew into a $100 billion-plus tech services giant with U.S. operations based in Plano, Texas.