Bottas will not start in Melbourne (UPDATED)

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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.

IndyCar disappointed by delay of video game but aiming to launch at start of 2024

IndyCar video game 2024

An IndyCar executive said there is “absolutely” disappointment that its long-awaited video game recently was delayed beyond its target date, but the series remains optimistic about the new title.

“Well, I don’t know how quick it will be, but the whole situation is important to us,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said during a news conference Monday morning to announce IndyCar’s NTT title sponsorship. “Motorsport Games has spent a lot of money, a lot of effort to create an IndyCar title. What we’ve seen of that effort, which is not completely obvious, is very reassuring.

“I think it’s going to be outstanding. That’s our shared objective, that when it is released, it’s just widely accepted. A great credit both to IndyCar racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, something that our fans love.”

In June 2021, IndyCar announced a new partnership with Motorsport Games to create and distribute an IndyCar video game for the PC and Xbox and PlayStation consoles in 2023.

But during an earnings call last week, Motorsport Games said the IndyCar game had been delayed to 2024 to ensure high quality.

Somewhat compounding the delay is that IndyCar’s license for iRacing expired after the end of the 2022 season because of its exclusive agreement with Motorsport Games.

That’s resulted in significant changes for IndyCar on iRacing, which had provided a high-profile way for the series to stay visible during its 2020 shutdown from the pandemic. (Players still can race an unbranded car but don’t race on current IndyCar tracks, nor can they stream).

That’s helped ratchet up the attention on having a video game outlet for IndyCar.

“I wish we had an IndyCar title 10 years ago,” said Miles, who has been working with the organization since 2013. “We’ve been close, but we’ve had these I think speed bumps.”

IndyCar is hopeful the Motorsports Game edition will be ready at the start of 2024. Miles hinted that beta versions could be unveiled to reporters ahead of the time “to begin to show the progress in a narrow way to make sure we’ve got it right, to test the progress so that we’re ready when they’re ready.”

It’s been nearly 18 years since the release of the most recent IndyCar video game for console or PC.

“(We) better get it right,” Miles said. “It’s something we’re very close to and continue to think about what it is to make sure we get it over the line in due course.”