SUZUKA, Japan, Oct 6 (Reuters) - Valtteri Bottas is set to drop five places on the grid for Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix as the result of an unscheduled gearbox change on his Mercedes.
Rules say a driver has to use one gearbox for six straight races. He can take on a fresh gearbox without a penalty if he fails to finish the previous race but Bottas crossed the line fifth last weekend in Malaysia.
The Finn will therefore start the race at the Suzuka circuit five places lower than where he qualifies on Saturday. The 28-year-old, who replaced retired world champion Nico Rosberg at Mercedes and last month signed an extension to his deal keeping him at the reigning champions alongside Lewis Hamilton for another year, ended Friday’s practice sessions with the fifth fastest time.
His best effort was set in the opening session in the morning, with Bottas choosing not to set a time in the afternoon’s rain-delayed second practice in which only five cars were brave enough to attempt a flying lap.
Bottas has started from pole twice and won two races this season. But since Formula One’s summer break, the Finn has struggled to extract the most out of his Mercedes, a car team boss Toto Wolff has described as a “diva”.
Editing by Ed Osmond