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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.”

IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.