A Valtteri Bottas mystery solved, Logan Sargeant out of Australian GP: Prime Tire

Welcome back to Prime Tire, where we’re wondering if everyone would please stop skirting the wall at Turn 6 at the Albert Park Circuit? As we’ll see in a minute, it’s already cost one team a lot this weekend.

I’m Patrick, and Luke Smith will be along shortly. Let’s get to it – it’s time for the AUSTRALIAN  GRAND  PRIX!

Valtteri Bottas uber ad gif

Is that really a bird sound in Bottas’ car horn?

In case you missed it, Valtteri Bottas partnered with Uber Carshare for a pretty amusing commercial this week. The gist is that you can borrow Bottas’ car, which is Very Valtteri Bottas™️: bike rack, surfboard rack, a shower, flip-flop hanger, budgie smuggler drying rack … all acted so perfectly. I’ve honestly never seen an athlete act so well in a commercial.

I’d give it full marks if the ad hadn’t sent me to the closet to dig up my tinfoil hat. See, there’s one moment in the ad where Bottas honks the car horn, and it makes an odd sound. “It’s a bird!” the Stake driver proclaims, as if we’d just take his word for it. Not me. Remember on Tuesday when I talked about my bird feeder? (Remember when this started out as an F1 newsletter?)

I don’t mean to brag, but I’ve got a bird call identifier app called Merlin Bird ID. (It’s terrific.) I downloaded the Australian and Scandinavian bird packs (Bottas is Finnish). And you better believe I tested that car horn.


Merlin app screenshot

The bird wizards have spoken! (Merlin Bird ID)

I didn’t make a noise, I was like a foot away from the “bird sound” on the computer screen and I stood as still as a cat on a cold tin roof. I’m calling it: There is no bird in that steering wheel. I declare this commercial false advertising. Null and void!

Williams’ very bad day of practice

So, the big takeaway from the first two practices is that Alex Albon may have cooked Williams’ weekend when he lost the car in FP1. He certainly cooked teammate Logan Sargeant’s weekend.

Alex Albon crash gif Australian Open 2024

The driver was okay, but the car certainly was not. The chassis was busted, and the team kept Albon out of FP2 to really assess the damage on his car. The team doesn’t have a third chassis available, so it’s sitting Sargeant — crash notwithstanding, Albon has the better record of delivering points come Sunday. Luke’s got all the details here.

Some more bite-sized notes from the first day of practice in Melbourne:

  • Carlos Sainz drove in both sessions just two weeks after his emergency appendectomy. The Athletic’s Luke Smith detailed his recovery this week – the goal today was to gauge his comfort levels. We’ll see. It would be quite a comeback. Ferrari looked like pole contenders after FP2, where Sainz and Charles Leclerc finished in the top three.
  • Good week so far for Lando Norris: he topped FP1 and confirmed he will guest on “Chicken Shop Date” soon. I’m told that’s a popular YouTube series. I am 93 years old.
  • *whispers* Zhou Guanyu finished P11 in FP2. He finished a solid P11 in Bahrain. I don’t know what my point is here – I’m writing this at 2 a.m.
  • My early money is on Verstappen winning (duh) with the Ferraris on the podium, but Fernando Alonso making life difficult for the Mercedes and McLarens behind. Also wouldn’t be shocked if that’s the way the constructors’ championship plays out, too. Also, I do not have money – it all went to the bird feeder.

Meanwhile, off the track

When it rains, it pours in F1 – and that’s certainly true of the off-track situations consuming the sport’s news cycles. It picked up again on Thursday when one FIA investigation closed and another FIA investigation situation resurfaced.

The FIA’s Ethics Committee cleared FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem of any wrongdoing after investigating two separate allegations of sporting interference – that Ben Sulayem had interfered with last year’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix race result and threatened to prevent the Las Vegas street circuit approval last November.

Hours later, Susie Wolff, the managing director of F1 Academy, confirmed she filed a criminal complaint earlier this month in French courts related to statements made about her by the FIA last December over an alleged conflict of interest – a probe that closed only two days later.

“There has still not been any transparency or accountability in relation to the conduct of the FIA and its personnel in this matter,” Wolff said on social media.

Both stories, and the general deluge of off-track situations impacting F1 right now, generated a strong response from Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who called for more transparency from the sports’ power brokers. “How can you trust the sport and what is happening here if you don’t have that?” Asked if Ben Sulayem had his backing, Hamilton said, “He never has.”

Inside the paddock with Luke Smith

There’s not really any good way to travel to Australia, be it from Europe or the United States. The 24-hour trip covering 10,000 miles is tiring enough, and that’s before you factor in the jet lag.

I got here on Monday and still haven’t got in more than four hours of sleep per night (something that actually helped when the FIA statement arrived on Wednesday), and everyone is in the same boat. No matter how early or late you get here, you’re going to struggle.

Well, unless you’re Fernando Alonso, it seems. In preseason, Alonso said he planned to change his travel plan to help avoid fatigue this year by maximizing time at home. Sensible in some cases, but surely that would leave him struggling for Australia? So, running on fumes, I asked him: “How’s your jet lag?”

“I sleep a lot,” Alonso said. “In this type of traveling, it seems that I sleep in the European time, then I sleep in the local time, so I get double the sleep which is good.”

We all chuckled in a collective, slightly bemused response, with one colleague going: “You’ll have to share your secret!” Jet lag’s a battle we’re all facing right now, making Alonso an exception, not the rule. Good at driving F1 cars, and good at sleeping! Some people really do have it all.

Outside the points

I’m told there is a finite amount of time I’m allowed to bother you in emails (fair!), so here’s a couple of our latest stories I think you should read, with a convincing argument made in 10 words or less.

(Lead image of Valtteri Bottas and Alex Albon: Robert Cianflone, Kym Illman/Getty Images)

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