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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:

Eli Tomac’s near-perfect season ended perfectly

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From the start, Eli Tomac wanted to go into the season-ending race at Ironman Raceway with the 2020 red plate already in his possession. That final race has been know to devolve into muddy conditions and it is best not to leave things to chance.

For a rider with an almost perfect record of overall podium finishes, one would not have thought there would be much drama at the end of Round 11 at Budds Creek, but it took until the last lap of the final moto for Tomac to achieve his goal.

One reason was that Tomac’s near-perfect season was not so perfect. From the very beginning at Hangtown, Tomac struggled with poor starts to his events. Getting a bad jump out of the gate and finishing fourth in Moto 1 that weekend was not the auspicious beginning he wanted in search of his third consecutive 450 outdoor championship.

The hallmark of Tomac’s season has been overcoming bad starts. He rode through the field at Hangtown and nearly stood on the podium. Then he won Moto 2 and finished second overall. It was his first of nine consecutive overall podiums. Tomac came back the following week for a perfect sweep at Pala.

In Round 3, Tomac once again got off to a bad start. He finished fifth in Moto 1 at Thunder Valley – and then won Moto 2 in a duplication of his opening round.

In Round 5, Tomac had his worst performance until that time. He finished seventh in Moto 1. Nearly halfway through the season, a pattern was firmly established with his Moto 2 win.

Vanessa O’Brien, Kawasaki USA

One should recall that the hallmark of Tomac’s season was strong finishes. Four the next four weeks Tomac failed to podium only one time in a moto. On that occasion, he would stumble in Moto 2 at Spring Creek in Round 8 before scoring his second perfect race at Washougal.

And that is where it got interesting. Tomac left Washougal with a 50-point advantage over Marvin Musquin. It was just the scenario Tomac had seesawed his way through the season to achieve. But it was too good to be true.

In most of his previous bad performances, there was an extenuating circumstance for Tomac’s bad start: a fall or an off course excursion. This time, he simply rode an uninspired race and finished seventh again to match his worst single moto performance. He could not fully rebound in Moto 2 and finished third.

For the first time in 2019, Tomac failed to stand on the overall podium in fourth. Worse still, he lost 10 points to Musquin and no longer had his one-race cushion.

But this is a season of recovery for Tomac. At Budds Creek last week it was reported that Tomac’s lackluster performance in Washington was due to his overdoing his chores on his Colorado ranch. Rested and restored, Tomac scored his third perfect race with Moto 1 & 2 wins. And this time, he looked sharper than he had in any previous race.

Tomac did all the could do by winning both motos, but in the closing laps at Budds Creek he needed a little help to clinch the title. As it turned out, Tomac needed the perfect performance to clinch his third consecutive championship.

In Moto 1, he narrowly edged Ken Roczen and Musquin, to give the three championship contenders a sweep of the top three spots; that was not enough to regain his cushion.

Roczen was close enough to force Tomac into The Ironman needing to score points to permanently affix the red plate on his Kawasaki in 2020, but just as Tomac’s season has been marked by second half improvements, Roczen’s has been marred by a lack of performance in the second motos.

Musquin passed Roczen late in Moto 2 last week and could have extended the drama one more week if he could have caught second-place Jason Anderson. Musquin could not erase an 11-second deficit to the runner-up and now Tomac’s almost perfect season has a distinctly perfect feel to it.

Vanessa O’Brien, Kawasaki USA

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