F1: Bottas wins Japanese GP

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SUZUKA, Japan  — Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas surged into the lead at the start and held on to win the typhoon-hit Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday for his third Formula One victory of the season and first since April.

Bottas, who started third on the grid, pulled ahead of Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc almost immediately and then used an effective two-stop pit strategy to finish 11.376 seconds ahead of Vettel. Bottas’ teammate and championship leader Lewis Hamilton was third.

“Starting third is never easy here but there’s no point giving up,” Bottas said. “I had a really nice car and Sebastian had an issue, so it was good to get the lead. Really proud of the team, sixth title in a row is so impressive.”

With Bottas holding a comfortable lead over the closing laps at the Suzuka Circuit, there was a fierce battle for second place between Vettel and Hamilton.

Hamilton made a desperate attempt to pass Vettel over the final two laps but was unable to pull ahead. But the podium finishes for Bottas and Hamilton ensured Mercedes won their sixth-consecutive constructors’ championship.

Vettel started from pole position but got off to a bad start. Race stewards investigated Vettel over a potential jump-start but ruled that he didn’t.

“The lights were on but it was my mistake,” Vettel said. “The Mercedes were difficult, they had more pace than us and Valtteri was flying.”

There was contact between Leclerc and Red Bull driver Max Verstappen at Turn 2 and Verstappen was sent into a spin before being forced to retire early in the race.

Bottas pitted from the lead on the 18th lap to switch to medium tires as Hamilton took the lead for the first time.

With Hamilton on soft tires, Bottas had better pace on fresher tires when he returned. Hamilton made his first pit stop on lap 22 and Bottas retook the lead.

When he came back out, Hamilton was 20 seconds behind Bottas and questioned his team’s tire strategy over the radio.

Bottas went in for his final pit stop on lap 37 and emerged into some traffic in second place behind Hamilton, who pitted with 10 laps remaining.

Bottas then held on for his first victory in Japan to slightly narrow Hamilton’s commanding championship lead to 64 points with four races left.

Organizers canceled Saturday’s qualifying session with Typhoon Hagibis set to hit Japan’s main island. Vettel led Ferrari teammate Leclerc in morning qualifying to secure the front row for Ferrari.

Qualifying at Suzuka was also moved to Sunday morning as a result of bad weather in 2004 and 2010.

Supercross: Husqvarna’s Jalek Swoll and Malcolm Stewart out with injury

Swoll Stewart injury
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Jalek Swoll and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna teammate Malcolm Stewart sustained injury in separate crashes late last week. Stewart missed Anaheim 2 and Swoll will not mount up for the 250 East season opener in Houston on February 4.

“Spent all of yesterday in the ER and today getting surgery so haven’t been able to make an update post,” Swoll posted on Instagram. “Spiral fractured my humorous yesterday and was lucky enough to get into surgery today. Absolutely heartbroken that I couldn’t show all the hard work me, [Mike Brown], [Aldon Baker], and [Joel Perez] were working on truly felt like this year was going to a big one with massive improvements we made but I guess it just wasn’t my time.”

The team announced on Instagram that Swoll underwent successful surgery to repair a broken bone in his arm, sustained in a practice crash on Friday. After missing the division opener, no further timeline has been given for his return.

Swoll made eight starts in the 250 West division last season with a best finish of fifth. In 2021, he scored his first SuperMotocross win in the outdoor Pro Motocross season at High Point Raceway in Mount Morris, Pennsylvania.

Stewart missed Anaheim 2 due to a practice injury. Likewise, the team did not announce a timetable for Stewart’s return.

He showed a lot of speed in the first two rounds before accidents eliminated him from contention in both rounds. He finished 16th at Anaheim 1 and 15th in San Diego, putting him in a points’ deficit that was already going to be difficult to overcome.

Stewart entered the 2023 season with a ton of confidence and believed all he needed was to stack his chips the right way to get this year’s championship.

Husqvarna is now represented by RJ Hampshire in the 250 West division and Christian Craig in 450s.

Hampshire had a rough weekend in Anaheim 2 and finished 11th in the overall standings after scoring a last place result in Race 2 with a bike sidelined by crash damage and a 13th in Race 3 after another fall.

Craig has not yet scored a top-10 on his 450 with a best of 11th at San Diego and Anaheim 2.

The news of these two injuries comes on the heels of the Pro Circuit Kawasaki team losing three of their four 250 riders.

Last week, Pro Circuit Kawasaki announced Seth Hammaker would miss the season opener with a wrist injury. Almost immediately, it was announced Jo Shimoda would also miss the 250 East opener with a shoulder injury.

Chris Blose will serve as a replacement rider in the 250 East division with Carson Mumford scheduled to replace the injured Austin Forkner in the West.