Valtteri Bottas was surprised to be unable to fight for a podium finish in Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix as he was forced to settle for a fifth place finish at Suzuka.
Bottas qualified third on Saturday behind the two Mercedes drivers, and looked poised to battle with the Ferrari duo of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen for the final podium position.
The Finn dropped behind Vettel at the start, but stayed third when pole-sitter Nico Rosberg was forced wide at turn one by teammate Lewis Hamilton and dropped to fourth place.
Despite having the measure of Rosberg during the first stint, Bottas lost the position when the German driver made a move at the final chicane with fresher tires.
As the race wore on, Bottas’ pace dropped, allowing Raikkonen to catch up and take P4 at the final round of pit stops.
Speaking after the race, Bottas admitted that he expected to be fighting for a top three finish at Suzuka, but was pleased with the haul of points that he came away with.
“Not a perfect day for us, but we will take the ten points,” Bottas said. “I was hoping for a podium, but the pace wasn’t as good as we had expected.
“Defending from the quicker cars was hard and I think we should have pitted earlier for the final stop, but it’s always easier to say that after the race.”
Teammate Felipe Massa had a race to forget as a first lap clash with Daniel Ricciardo left him with a puncture, dropping him to the very back of the field. The Brazilian eventually finished in 17th place.
“A very tough day for me today right from the first lap,” Massa said. “I had a bad start and then had contact with Ricciardo and it took me a long time to get back to the pits. From there it was the end of the race barring any miracle.
“We have scored some decent points for the constructors’ championship with Valtteri’s fifth but I had the car to contribute a good haul of points as well. We have to regroup and get those points back at the next race.”
Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.
Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.
On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.
One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.
After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.
The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.
Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.
“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”
Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.
“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”
But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.
“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.
“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”
Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.
“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.
“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”
The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.