Verstappen’s qualifying ‘ruined’ by Bottas, starts ninth in Baku

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Max Verstappen blamed Valtteri Bottas for ruining his qualifying attempt for the European Grand Prix on Saturday in Baku.

Verstappen and Bottas almost collided during Q3 at the first corner before swapping track position back and forth.

The end result was that Verstappen could only qualify ninth thanks to a late run after a red flag stoppage, leaving him disappointed.

“I think today we could have been P3. When the red flag came out I was already five-tenths up on my lap from Q2 so a 1:43.9 was in sight, easily,” Verstappen said.

“It’s just unfortunate I got ruined by Bottas in Q2, and then after the red flag in Q3 with two minutes to go, he did exactly the same thing, so again, very unfortunate, but the pace is there.

“I don’t need to have a chat, I’ll just focus on tomorrow. We know from GP2 there will be a lot of action and overtaking, so it will be a very interesting race for sure.”

“Max endured a much more frustrating Q3, having twice encountered Valtteri Bottas at turn one who inexplicably decided to overtake him up the inside compromising both of their laps, on the first and second run,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said.

“Unfortunately that has left him ninth on the grid but at this circuit it looks like overtaking is possible and it’s sure to be an action-filled grand prix tomorrow.”

Bottas ultimately qualified eighth for Williams, complaining of traffic in Q3.

“I think we were unlucky today. Missing FP3 definitely made qualifying more difficult,” Bottas admitted, having been sidelined after a drain cover damaged his car.

“It’s hard to say how much it affected us, but I don’t think our pace was too bad. I didn’t put a perfect lap together in Q1 or Q2, so I think to get through how we did shows that we had good pace.

“Q3 was tough because I was heavily affected by traffic on both of my runs and I think there was definitely about half a second to be found in the car.

“For tomorrow, we have a good race pace so I’m sure we can have a good day.”

The European Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 8am ET on Sunday.

Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
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ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).

“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.

“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”

For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.

“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.

“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”

Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.

“I am beyond excited to reconnect with Suzuki for the 3rd time in my career. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in our future.” Roczen said in the Instagram post.