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Bottas pleased with Kick Sauber’s pace progress as Zhou rues ‘disappointing start of the year’ after Japan DNF

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SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 07: Valtteri Bottas of Finland driving the (77) Kick Sauber C44 Ferrari on

There were mixed emotions for the Kick Sauber team at the Japanese Grand Prix, with Valtteri Bottas taking the positives from the squad’s improvement in pace while Zhou Guanyu was left disappointed after having to retire with a mechanical problem.

Having hinted at good pace earlier in the weekend, Bottas at times looked to be close to the fight for points at Suzuka come race day. The Finn was involved in a scrap with several cars around him, resulting in a chaotic moment in the pit lane where the majority of this group pitted at the same time on Lap 23.

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Bottas ended up near the back of this pack and, after trying to find a way past the Haas of Kevin Magnussen, eventually crossed the line in P14. While this means that Kick Sauber are still yet to score a point in 2024, the 10-time race winner was left feeling optimistic about the car’s speed.

“Honestly it was a positive day in terms of the pace overall,” Bottas commented after the race “We did stop quite early on the second stop, and actually [at the] same time with all the others.

“Unfortunately we ended up behind all the cars that we were racing, so then basically for the rest of the race I was stuck behind Kevin [Magnussen], who had really high top speed, so I couldn’t really find a way around him. But pace-wise I think it’s better than what the result is.”

‘Pace was better than the result’ says Bottas after P14 finish in Japan

In terms of whether the overriding factor to take from the weekend was that the pace is improving, Bottas said: “At the moment I’m disappointed because we didn’t get points, but yes, the positive thing is that we’ve made steps forward this weekend in terms of pace, so that’s good to see.”

While Bottas saw the chequered flag, the race was over much sooner for Zhou, who headed to the pits on Lap 14 with an apparent gearbox issue. It marked the end of what had been a challenging weekend for the Chinese driver.

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“Obviously it’s very frustrating at the moment with several issues over the weekend, but unfortunately [today] we have another issue on the gearbox,” he explained following his DNF.

“The back of the car, the oil was burning, and of course going around also the gear was not really synced. [We] had some issue in Melbourne as well but a different one, but we need to see, to clear up for [the] next race because it’s been a pretty, let’s say, disappointing start of the year.”

Zhou reveals gearbox issue caused his DNF as ‘disappointing start to the year’ continued in Japan

While Zhou had felt good in the car prior to his retirement from the running, he acknowledged that the problems experienced throughout the weekend had not been helpful.

“It’s been tough,” the 24-year-old conceded. “I felt like I was in a good race up to that point. It was a good start, good few laps and also with the tyre.

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“In terms of the overall pace I think I was there together with the guys, but yeah, FP3 had an issue and here had an issue, so it just kind of pulls back a lot the race weekend. In terms of preparation it’s not ideal.”

Zhou will be hoping for better luck when he races in front of his home crowd at the upcoming Chinese Grand Prix, which takes place from April 19-21.

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