12:00 a.m. ET: It’s midnight on the U.S. East Coast and we have an update on Williams Martini Racing’s Valtteri Bottas and his back issue heading Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix. Unfortunately, it’s not a good one.
Bottas has been ruled out of the race, with a back injury. The news was confirmed from the FIA, and first posted to the official Formula 1 Twitter account. Williams added an update almost momentarily thereafter:
Bottas joins Fernando Alonso of McLaren, who is recovering from his preseason concussion, as star drivers out of the season opener. It also leaves the grid at just 17 cars, as no other driver has done laps in an official on-track session this weekend.
11:50 p.m. ET: Williams Martini Racing’s Valtteri Bottas has remained in hospital overnight after complaining of back pain following qualifying for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix (12:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra). He qualified sixth and finished fifth a year ago.
The team released an update early Sunday morning Australian time (late Saturday evening in U.S. ET) that confirmed Bottas sustained some soft tissue damage in his lower back, and would announce a further update when a determination is made on his condition.
A portion of the team’s statement reads:
He remained in hospital overnight and following a restful night is now working with a physiotherapist prior to final assessment by the FIA in the early afternoon to determine whether he will be able to race later today. The team will release a further update as information is available.
Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.
Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.