Formula 1’s Finnish contingent had a difficult Saturday ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix as both Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen encountered crashes and penalties at Suzuka.
Bottas’ five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change was confirmed on Friday, but the Mercedes driver’s plight deepened when he crashed into the barrier exiting Spoon in FP3, damaging his car.
Bottas was able to bounce back in qualifying and finish second behind teammate Lewis Hamilton, only to lose his front row spot due to the grid drop. He will start sixth after the grid is re-jigged.
“With the incident I had in FP3, there was some extra work for the guys. They did really well to get the car together, it worked perfectly,” Bottas said, having also qualified for the race on the soft compound tire.
“It’s been a tricky weekend, not quite so clean so far, and going slightly over a kerb in FP3 can make a massive difference. I had to reset and go for it.
“It’s going to be a long race, but it’s just a real shame [to drop back]. It would have been better to start one and two as a team. That would have been nice, but it is what it is.”
Bottas’ struggles almost mirrored those of compatriot Raikkonen, who also crashed out in FP3 after making a mistake, running wide at Degner 2.
Ferrari was forced to change the gearbox on Raikkonen’s car ahead of qualifying, giving him a five-place grid drop. Like Bottas, the 2007 world champion opted for an alternate strategy, also taking soft tires.
However, Raikkonen was not able to match his fellow countryman for pace in Q2, and will start the race 10th following his penalty.
“It was not a great start of the day to go off track this morning in FP3, not the ideal preparation for qualifying. After that, everything got more difficult, but the team did a great job to get the car back in one piece,” Raikkonen said.
“In qualifying the car felt OK, but it was a bit tricky. The biggest issue was the limited running we had had with new tires in the morning. In Q3, when I really had to push, I made a mistake in the first run and I had a pretty average lap time in the second one. Now I pay the price for my mistake.
“After my crash, we’ve got a five places penalty for replacing the gearbox. This obviously complicates our race even more.
“Tomorrow it’s not going to be easy, but I think that we have a good car for the race.”
The Japanese Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from midnight ET on Sunday.