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F1 2016 Driver Review: Valtteri Bottas

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Valtteri Bottas

Team: Williams Martini Racing
Car No.: 77
Races: 21
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: 3rd (Canada)
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 85
Laps Led: 0
Championship Position: 8th

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

2016 was a weird year for Valtteri Bottas. He may have only scored one podium finish, but given the lack of progress made by Williams, the Finn could not really have been expected to fare much better than he did.

Bottas impressed in the early part of the year when the FW38 car was at its strongest, finishing fourth in Russia and fifth in Spain, before enjoying a very impressive weekend in Canada to end up third. However, as development on the car failed to bear fruit and the likes of Force India and McLaren moved ahead, Bottas struggled to reach such dizzying heights again, recording just a single top-five finish in the second half of the season.

Despite being passed over by Ferrari for 2017, Bottas could still yet get a shot with a top team next year should Mercedes’ reported interest result in a move up as Nico Rosberg’s replacement. Bottas may not have stolen the show through 2016, but he did what he could with the tools at hand, and overshadowed teammate Felipe Massa in the process. A solid if unspectacular season for the Finn.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Bottas’ year reminded me a bit of Daniel Ricciardo’s last year. The car’s pace at his disposal came down a bit, but Bottas still tried to make the most of it more often than not. An 85-53 points edge over teammate Felipe Massa spoke to Bottas at least reliably banking solid finishes when the chances were there.

There were few standout drives but the Canada podium, and other good races in Russia, Italy and Malaysia, ensured he still maximized his chances.

Bottas’ future is intriguing with the Mercedes seat open. He’d be a good mentor for Lance Stroll at Williams provided he stays, but if he can get bought out of his contract and go up to Mercedes, he should be able to join the ranks of Grand Prix winners.

Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

PRACTICE CHART: Click here to see the speed rundown from Thursday’s session

FRIDAY AT IMS: Details for watching Race 1 of the Harvest GP

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for Oliver Askew (who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms), also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule of road and street courses in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at Ground Zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Johnson told Lee his sponsorship hunt to run a Ganassi car “has gone really well. The fact that I’m here today and ingrained so deeply in the team is a great sign of where things are going. Looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a car soon and hopefully having some announcements for the world to see soon, too.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.