Williams starts strong, but struggles home 8th, 9th in Bahrain

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Williams Martini Racing launched out of the gate with both Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa making flying starts from sixth and seventh up to second and third by the first turn.

And that was as good as it got from there before the pair of drivers fell back as the race went on.

Bottas, from the inside line and sixth, launched through the middle past Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull and Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari to then get into third place.

It was there though he attempted to pass Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes for second at the inside at Turn 1, only to collect Hamilton and push the three-time and defending World Champion into a spin and cause contact for both cars.

He and Massa made it out of the corner in second and third, but once they switched onto Pirelli’s medium compound, they fell back as the race progressed.

Bottas’ race went from bad to worse as he was assessed a drive-through penalty for the first corner contact. He ended a spot behind Massa, with the pair eighth and ninth, and was also given two penalty points for the clash with Hamilton.

“The first 200 meters into Turn 1 was the highlight of my race. Everything after that was very disappointing,” Bottas told NBCSN’s Will Buxton.

“The Mercedes cars didn’t expect me there, and maybe I braked too late as well. I need to have a look.”

On the contact, Bottas said he could have possibly avoided braking too late.

“I think definitely I could avoided (the contact) a little. But I didn’t expect them to slow down that much. Sometimes it works, and sometimes you brake too early and someone passes you from the outside.”

Massa was more elaborate in noting the struggles on the mediums.

“I was so happy after corner one I went from seventh to second. And now I’m so disappointed to finish eighth in the race!” Massa told Buxton.

“Our strategy didn’t work compared to the other teams. It’s a race we were supposed to score more points. We couldn’t do anything. We scored a little points. The race pace on the mediums was disappointing compared to the other cars. It was good on the supersofts, but after that, not.”

Massa also had debuted a new front wing this race, which he hoped would improve performance

“I hope the numbers are important for the engineers. I hope we can understand things better, be strong and do a better strategy.”

You can note Williams’ tire strategy play here compared to others:

Malcolm Stewart sidelined by knee surgery for ‘extended duration’

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The knee injury that kept Malcolm Stewart from mounting up for Anaheim 2 will require surgery and he will be sidelined for “an extended duration” of the Monster Energy Supercross season, according to the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team.

“I just wanted to give you guys an update,” Stewart said on Instagram. “It’s not the news you guys want to hear, but I took a spill last week and hurt my knee pretty bad to the point that we’re going to have to get surgery done.

“I’m definitely bummed out about it; I felt we were riding pretty good and were just now starting to get the ball rolling, but it is what it is.”

Stewart’s season started with high expectations until accidents in the first two rounds left him 15th in the standings.

He ended 2022 on a high note, finishing a career high third in the Supercross standings. He then missed the start of the Pro Motocross season with another knee injury.

The 2023 season appeared to live up to his expectations. Despite back-to-back accidents, Stewart contended for podiums at both Anaheim 1 and San Diego. He won his heat at San Diego.

“It was very tough to receive the news that Malcolm will need to undergo knee surgery,” Nathan Ramsey, Team Manager for the Husqvarna team said in a press release. “He has worked so hard to be in a position to win races this year and I truly believe he was ready.

“The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing program will support him in every way that we can through his recovery and we can’t wait to get him back on track and back at the races.”

Stewart joins 250 rider Jalek Swoll on the sidelines after he broke an arm in a practice session. Swoll will be relieved by Talon Hawkins beginning this week at Houston, Texas.

A replacement rider has not been announced for Stewart, which means the focus shifts to his 450 teammate Christian Craig, who currently sits 12th in the standings with three top-15s in the opening rounds.