Who could partner Vettel at Red Bull in 2014?

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Two races in to the 2013 Formula One season, and questions about next season are already beginning to arise. Following the incident between Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel in Malaysia, and Christian Horner’s subsequent claim that Webber would have made the same move, it appears that Red Bull will be seeking a new driver for the 2014 season. Therefore, who is in the running to join Vettel in Milton Keynes?

Nico Hulkenberg

Would it be so crazy for Nico Hulkenberg to join a fourth team for his fourth season of Formula One next year? When you have as much talent as he does, certainly not. Hulkenberg has already proven that he can qualify strongly (putting his Williams on pole for the 2010 Brazilian GP), and even manage a race in the lead (2012 Brazilian GP). With Helmut Marko calling him a “future champion”, Red Bull could opt for an all-German line up in 2014.

Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo

Ever since Scuderia Toro Rosso was set up in 2006, the team has always been the ‘feeder team’ to Red Bull Racing. However, Sebastian Vettel is the only driver to have gone on to bigger things, whilst the rest of the drivers have been dropped by the team, and in some cases, Red Bull altogether. Although Vergne and Ricciardo are yet to match Vettel’s stint with Toro Rosso, they have both shown signs of speed. However, they may be more focused on staying in Formula One instead of joining the champion team, and they will need to improve on their one point haul in 2013 so far.

Sebastien Buemi

Buemi is one of the drivers to have been dropped by Toro Rosso, but he joined Red Bull as their official test driver in 2012, and if Webber was to walk away before the end of the season, he would be the obvious choice. However, Buemi’s lack of true success could put off Red Bull, and he is only likely to be approached if they fail to land Hulkenberg. Regardless, his name will definitely be thrown around when a decision needs to be made.

Antonio Félix da Costa

The young upstart from Portugal has turned many heads in motorsport over the past twelve months. As well as finishing third in GP3 last season, da Costa finished fourth in Formula Renault 3.5 despite only completing two-thirds of the season. He has impressed in the Young Driver Tests, and at 21 years of age, da Costa is unquestionably a star for the future. In an ideal world, he would slot into the Toro Rosso setup, but Red Bull could reap the rewards if they take a gamble by promoting da Costa early. As McLaren proved with Lewis Hamilton in 2007, sometimes a rookie driver isn’t always a bad thing…

 

Could we see a turn around in relations at Red Bull though? If Mark Webber can have a strong 2013 season, he could make all questions about a replacement worthless, and perhaps even challenge Vettel for supremacy in the team.

Jack Miller wins the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his downward points’ slide

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Jack Miller ran away with the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi as Fabio Quartararo stopped his downward slide in the championship when a last-lap accident from his closest rival in the standings caused Francesco Bagnaia to score zero points.

Starting seventh, Miller quickly made his way forward. He was second at the end of two laps. One lap later, he grabbed the lead from Jorge Martin. Once in the lead, Miller posted three consecutive fastest laps and was never seriously challenged. It was Australian native Miller’s first race win of the season and his sixth podium finish.

The proximity to his home turf was not lost.

“I can ride a motorcycle sometimes,” Miller said in NBC Sports’ post-race coverage. “I felt amazing all weekend since I rolled out on the first practice. It feels so awesome to be racing on this side of the world.

“What an amazing day. It’s awesome; we have the home Grand Prix coming up shortly. Wedding coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m over the moon; can’t thank everyone enough.”

Miller beat Brad Binder to the line by 3.4 seconds with third-place Jorge Martin finishing about one second behind.

But the center of the storm was located just inside the top 10 as both Quartararo and Bagnaia started deep in the field.

Quartararo was on the outside of row three in ninth with Bagnaia one row behind in 12th. Neither rider moved up significantly, but the championship continued to be of primary importance as Bagnaia put in a patented late-race charge to settle onto Quartararo’s back tire, which would have allowed the championship leader to gain only a single point.

On the final lap, Bagnaia charged just a little too hard and crashed under heavy braking, throwing away the seven points he would have earned for a ninth-place finish.

The day was even more dramatic for the rider who entered the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix third in the standings. On the sighting lap, Aleix Espargaro had an alarm sound, so he peeled off into the pits, dropped his primary bike and jumped aboard the backup. Starting from pit lane, he trailed the field and was never able to climb into the points. An undisclosed electronic problem was the culprit.

For Quartararo, gaining eight points on the competition was more than a moral victory. This was a track on which he expected to run moderately, and he did, but the problems for his rivals gives him renewed focus with four rounds remaining.

Next week, the series heads to Thailand and then Miller’s home track of Phillip Island in Australia. They will close out the Pacific Rim portion of the schedule before heading to Spain for the finale in early November.

It would appear team orders are not in play among the Ducati riders. Last week’s winner Enea Bastianini made an aggressive early move on Bagnaia for position before the championship contender wrestled the spot back.

In his second race back following arm surgery, Marc Marquez won the pole. His last pole was more than 1,000 days ago on this same track in 2019, the last time the series competed at Motegi. Marquez slipped to fifth in the middle stages of the race, before regaining a position to finish just off the podium.

In Moto2 competition, Ai Ogura beat Augusto Fernandez to close the gap in that championship to two points. Fernandez holds the scant lead. Alonso Lopez rounded out the podium.

Both American riders, Cameron Beaubier and Joe Roberts finished just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.