Crashes, penalties give F1’s Finns difficult Saturday at Suzuka

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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.

Santino Ferrucci will drive No. 14 for AJ Foyt Racing full time in 2023 IndyCar season

Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt
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Santino Ferrucci will return to full-time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series next season, joining AJ Foyt Racing.

Ferrucci had made eight IndyCar starts with three teams since his last full-time season in 2020 while also racing part time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year.

He will drive the storied No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet for four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt’s team, which will field the car from its Waller, Texas headquarters.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the INDYCAR Series full time,” Ferrucci said in a team release. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally. I’m a race car driver, and I want to compete. Working with different teams has been exciting, and I’m proud that no matter which car I’ve raced, I’ve always shown speed and consistency. I couldn’t be more excited to join AJ Foyt Racing in the 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”

Ferrucci, 24, had finished a career-best fourth in IndyCar four times, including the 104th Indy 500 in 2020. He was the 2019 Indy 500 rookie of the year with a sixth.

In nine Xfinity starts since 2021, Ferrucci has a career-best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I am thrilled to welcome Santino to the team,” Larry Foyt said in a release. “He’s shown a knack for getting toward the front of the field, and I think he is a racer who moves forward on race day. A.J. sees the fire in him and has enjoyed their meetings together. I think Santino’s experience will help his rookie teammate as well, so he is a great addition to our roster.”

Ferrucci will be teamed at AJ Foyt Racing with Benjamin Pedersen, who finished fifth in the 2022 Indy Lights standings. The team has yet to specify the number for Pedersen’s entry, which will be fielded out of its Indianapolis race shop.

Foyt’s two full-time drivers last season were Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood, who is moving to Andretti Autosport.