Valtteri Bottas has become the first driver to receive penalty points on his F1 super-license after impeding Daniel Ricciardo during Sepang qualifying.
The Finn had a miserable day in the Williams managing only 15th fastest in the rainy conditions, though now he will take a further three-place grid drop as well as the two points – any driver who amasses 12 such points will receive a one-race ban.
The incident took place late on the second part of what was an elongated session after heavy rain had forced a 50-minute delay to the start, the Red Bull of Ricciardo was completing a lap when the Australian was held up by Bottas heading into the final turn.
Though the incident had little bearing on the final qualifying result, as Ricciardo would go on to take fifth in the top ten shootout, the stewards deemed Bottas’ actions to be worthy of such a punishment.
Bottas’s second grip drop in as many races was just the icing on a pretty dismal cake for the Grove team as Felipe Massa also failed to make Q3 achieving only 13th quickest as the lack of rear downforce, the Brazilian had been complaining of in the build-up to the weekend, was highlighted in the soggy late afternoon weather at Sepang.
That lack of stability was also Bottas’ reasoning for the poor performance on Saturday.
“It was a difficult qualifying session for us today and it was very reminiscent of our qualifying in Melbourne,” Bottas was quoted by Fox Sports. “The more water there was on track the more we struggled with the rear grip of the car. We tried both the intermediates and the wets but we just couldn’t get the grip we needed from either tyre.
“The wet conditions highlight where our weaknesses are, so we have a clear direction for where we need to improve the car. I still think we have a chance of fighting for some points though if we have a dry race.”
Also in the stewards room after qualifying were Fernando Alonso and Daniil Kvyat after the Russian collided with the Ferrari at the start of the same second segment causing a brief red flag and breaking the front left suspension on the F14-T.
As the drivers adjusted to the worsening conditions a cruising Alonso caught out the Toro Rosso teenager under braking for the turn nine hairpin, despite moving to the inside in a bid to avoid contact, Alonso, unable to see the approaching STR9, turned in and the pair came together at the apex.
Afterwards no further action was taken with the stewards deeming the moment a racing incident, though afterwards Alonso hailed his mechanics for what he believes must be the fastest ever suspension change.
“The mechanics did a super job, I think it’s a world record of changing suspension in three minutes, and I was able to keep running,” he told Adam Cooper.
Despite the lightning work done by his pit crew, the two-time champion did admit the car was far from where it was prior to the collision.
“The car really felt very strange, I think the toe or something was a little bit crazy after the crash, because it was so light on the right corners and so heavy on the left corners that I could not even move with the two hands.
“It was difficult, but enough to complete the laps, and I think staring fourth should give us a little bit of a possibility or a window to think of the podium for tomorrow.”
Indeed Alonso went on the take fourth on the grid while Kvyat was unlucky to just miss out on a second straight Q3 appearance in 11th.
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