Bottas being checked in hospital; status TBD for Sunday

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Williams’ Valtteri Bottas qualified sixth for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix, but whether he’ll actually start there remains to be seen.

The Finn was hospitalized after qualifying for a precautionary check, complaining of back pain.

He’ll rest in Alfred Hospital overnight before any decision is made; however, test driver Susie Wolff would be unable to fill in and make her Grand Prix debut as she has not participated in any official sessions this weekend.

Still, Bottas was more disappointed in his own qualifying effort than his back, though.

“Unfortunately towards the end of Q2 I started to feel a pain in my back,” Bottas said. “Under the circumstances I’m happy with sixth place, but as Felipe proved (Massa qualified third), this is not a true indication of our pace.

“Given the back complaint I had during the session, the team and I felt it sensible to get me checked out at the local hospital and we await their diagnosis.”

A year ago Bottas was one of the revelations in Melbourne, with two stunning drives through the field to a then-career best fifth place finish.

So whether he’ll have the chance to match or exceed it remains to be seen.

You can watch the Australian Grand Prix live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 12:30a ET tomorrow.

Alex Zanardi showing signs of interaction three months after crash

Alex Zanardi recovery
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
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MILAN — Italian racing driver turned Paralympic gold medalist Alex Zanardi has started responding to treatment with signs of interaction, more than three months after he was seriously injured in a handbike crash.

Zanardi has spent most of that time in intensive care after crashing into an oncoming truck during a relay event near the Tuscan town of Pienza on June 19.

“For several days now. Alex Zanardi has undergone cognitive and motor rehabilitation sessions, with the administration of visual and acoustic stimuli, to which the patient responds with momentary and initial signs of interaction,” the San Raffaele hospital in Milan said in a statement Thursday.

The hospital said that is “significant progress” but added that his condition remains serious, and that it would be “absolutely premature” to make a long-term prognosis.

Zanardi, 53, suffered serious facial and cranial trauma in the crash and was put in a medically induced coma. Doctors have warned of possible brain damage.

He was operated on several times to stabilize him and reconstruct his severely damaged face and the Milan hospital added that he recently had undergone another surgery to reconstruct his skull and would have another one in the coming weeks.

Zanardi lost both of his legs in an auto racing crash nearly 20 years ago. He won four gold medals and two silvers at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics. He also competed in the New York City Marathon and set an Ironman record in his class.