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Near perfect lap nets Bottas, Williams, fifth on grid at Monza

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Valtteri Bottas has delivered a pivotal fifth place on the grid for Williams Martini Racing at the 2016 Italian Grand Prix, following a near-perfect qualifying lap at the 3.6-mile Monza circuit.

The Finn and Williams have had a rough go of it in recent weeks, as the team has not scored a top-five finish since Bottas came third at the Canadian Grand Prix in mid-June.

But at the lower-downforce circuit and with the Mercedes power unit in the back of the FW38 chassis, there was a good shot for Williams to move up the grid at Monza and potentially into a podium position on Sunday.

The two Mercedes at the front of the field seemed in a league of their own, but the battle for third was intense. The pair of Ferraris locked out Row 2 but Bottas put his Williams in fifth, ahead of both Red Bulls driven by Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.

As Bottas described in the post-qualifying bullpen to NBCSN’s Will Buxton, nearly all the stars needed to align for such a qualifying result to happen – and they did.

“I think we knew we had a chance (to beat Red Bull),” Bottas told Buxton. “Our pace was good all weekend. We normally improve for qualifying, and we saw the possibility to be top five. That’s what we achieved today.

“Obviously Felipe (Massa) is out of the top 10, but he has free tire choice. He has a good opportunity to come back tomorrow.”

Bottas noted that Massa missed out on Q3, and the Brazilian will start 11th for what will be his final Italian Grand Prix. Massa was third in this race last year, and this weekend marks the one-year anniversary of his most recent podium result.

For tomorrow, barring any Mercedes issues, it appears there’s only one podium position to fight for. And the final podium position will set up as a strategic chess match between Ferrari, Williams and Red Bull. Ferrari is undoubtedly the home favorite, but Bottas would like to usurp them tomorrow.

“I think we could (get to Ferrari),” he said. “From what we’ve seen in practice in high fuel runs, we’re a lot better here than in Spa. The tire life seems OK and pace has been good. We’ll try for it.”

New study surveys drivers’ opinions on crashes, concussions, more

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Auto racing safety has continued to improve through the decades, but the sport remains inherently dangerous, according to a new survey.

At the close of 2018, a new organization called Racing Safety United emerged with the intention of reducing drivers’ risk of being harmed.

RSU is made up of more than 30 members including former NASCAR Cup Series competitor Jerry Nadeau, two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Randy LaJoie, NHRA team owner Don Schumacher and motorsports journalist Dick Berggren.

One of RSU’s first initiatives was to determine what current drivers thought of racing safety. The organization developed a 14-question survey and promoted it on select motorsports websites and forums. 

Participants were given the opportunity to disclose their identity or remain anonymous, and those who provided contact information were entered to win a $500 prize (for anonymous participants, the prize funds would be donated to a motorsports charity). 

More than 140 individuals participated in the survey over the course of 12 months. Below are the results of the survey:

Driver status

The vast majority of survey participants (60%) were amateur racers, while 26% of the participants were classified as Semi-Pro/Professional racers. The remaining 14% consisted of other individuals involved in the sport such as team owners and crew chiefs. 

When asked how frequently they race, 58% of driver respondents averaged 10 or more times per year on track, while 42% averaged 10 times or less.

The top five tracks respondents said they raced most often: Road Atlanta (21 votes), Watkins Glen (17 votes), Virginia International Raceway (16 votes), Mid-Ohio (16 votes), and Road America (13 votes).

Vehicular damage, injuries common

Over a third of respondents said they had been injured while racing, and almost two-thirds sasid they had suffered severe vehicle damage while racing

Driver error was cited as the top cause of vehicle damage (42 mentions), followed by concrete walls (26 mentions), mechanical failures (24 mentions), and other drivers (19 mentions). The study concluded those results indicated a need for better driver training/coaching, energy absorbing walls, and more technical inspections.

Almost a quarter of drivers said they had experienced racing-related concussions, and nearly half the respondents said one or multiple concussions would affect their decision to race in the future. 

Drivers primarily influenced by peers 

Roughly half the drivers said they would consider adopting new safety equipment if influenced by another driver (51 total mentions) and/or if recommended by a sanctioning body (47 total mentions). The study concluded those results indicated a need for drivers to become safety advocates and educate other drivers and for sanctioning bodies to mandate safety equipment. 

Drivers concerned with concrete walls

Approximately three-quarters of the drivers surveyed said they believed certain race tracks were more dangerous than others. Nearly half the drivers surveyed believe that concrete walls were the primary cause of damage to drivers and vehicles. 

Drivers willing to help

Just more than three-quarters of the drivers surveyed said that they would be willing to join a safety alliance to advocate for safer tracks. Two-thirds of drivers said that they also would be willing to contribute to a motorsports safety fund.

Click here for the full results of RSU’s survey

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