Valtteri Bottas saw his hopes of taking a maiden Formula 1 victory in Bahrain on Sunday fade as tire pressure issues limited the Finn to third place at the checkered flag.
Bottas scored his first pole position in F1 on Saturday in qualifying, edging out Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton by 0.023 seconds with his best lap.
Bottas retained his lead through the first stint of the race, but was unable to pull away as he struggled to manage his rear tires, creating a train of cars behind.
Bottas lost the lead after a slow pit stop, and ultimately had to let Hamilton pass him twice on-track to allow the Briton a shot at winning the race, leaving the ex-Williams driver third come the finish.
“It was a really tricky race for me, struggling with the pace all through the race. I think the first stint we found a bit of an issue with the tire pressures, that explains the rear end struggle,” Bottas said.
“But after that I was just rear limited and out of the tools on the steering wheel. It was just oversteering all through the race and that’s where the pace was slow, which is a real shame because for sure the target for today was a lot higher.”
Bottas admitted that he was disappointed to have been asked to let Hamilton pass him on two occasions in the race, but conceded that it was for the good of the team as it tried – and failed – to stop Sebastian Vettel winning for Ferrari.
“I’m a racing driver, so being told to let your teammate through is the worst thing you can ear. But there was potential for Lewis to catch Sebastian, so I understand the team’s decision,” Bottas said.
“Personally it’s hard, but what I have to find out is why we didn’t have the pace today.
Bad news continues to come out of the Monster Energy / Pro Circuit Kawasaki team as they announced Jo Shimoda injured his shoulder in a practice session and will not mount up when the Monster Energy Supercross 250 East division opens in Houston, Texas on February 4. A timetable has not been given for Shimoda’s return, but a press release from the team references multiple weeks.
“I’m doing my best to focus forward on my return to racing,” said Shimoda in the release. “Our goal was to compete for the 250 Supercross Eastern Regional Championship and I know we had been doing the right work to make that happen. Unfortunately, this crash will cause me to miss the start of the season, but I still aim to be back on the track racing for wins before the end of Supercross.”
Shimoda is joined on the sidelines by teammates Seth Hammaker and Austin Forkner, who also suffered injuries in recent weeks.
The news of Hammaker’s sidelining came just two days ago. His wrist injury is sufficient to require surgery, so he too will miss multiple weeks. Hammaker was scheduled to compete in the 250 East division alongside Shimoda.
Forkner was involved in a Lap 1 crash in the 250 West season opener at Anaheim. Multiple injuries, including an ACL tear, will sideline him for the remainder of the season. He described the injury and its aftermath on Instagram.
Forkner will be relieved by Carson Mumford, but not before that rider’s wrist has healed sufficiently. He is scheduled to debut with Kawasaki in Oakland for the rescheduled Round 2 Supercross race on February 18.
Shimoda finished fourth in the 2022 Supercross 250 West division and was second in 2021 points in 250 East. In 2021, Shimoda won his first Supercross race at Salt Lake City. Last year, he scored one podium and six top-fives in nine starts.
Shimoda finished second in last year’s outdoor Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season, where he added two more SuperMotocross wins including the Unadilla Nationals that kicked off a four-race streak of first- or second-place results.
Kawasaki is not the only team facing injury. Red Bull KTM initially reported Marvin Musquin would be out for the San Diego round with a wrist injury and “maybe more”. This week it was announced he will miss this week’s Triple Crown race in Anaheim and “at least the next several rounds.”