Rosberg closes out practice quickest at Silverstone

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Nico Rosberg has continued his good form at the British Grand Prix by finishing quickest in the final free practice session at Silverstone on Friday. The German driver edged out teammate Lewis Hamilton in the final runs, optimizing the pace of the W04 on the option tire.

The drab conditions on Friday had been replaced by bright sunshine and a cool breeze for the beginning of FP3, and the majority of drivers went out on the hard compound tire at the start of the session. Kimi Raikkonen posted the first benchmark time of 1:34.367, but this was soon beaten by Valtteri Bottas, Felipe Massa and Sergio Perez. However, the Mexican driver’s session came to a rather abrupt stop after his tire failed on the exit of Copse, causing severe damage to the underside of his MP4-28 and warranting a red flag. When the session did resume, hard tires were still the order of the day as Daniel Ricciardo and Paul di Resta once again ran strongly in P2 and P3, but Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel seemed to struggle down in P19 and P20.

With around half of the session complete, Lewis Hamilton gave his home fans something to shout about by going P1 for Mercedes, with Rosberg joining him at the head of the field in P2. Felipe Massa was the first medium runner, but the Ferrari driver could not exercise the advantage though, only going 7th with his first flying lap whilst his teammate, Fernando Alonso, moved into P4 on the hard tire.

The low levels of grip were evident with Alonso, Vettel, di Resta and Maldonado all made mistakes. Meanwhile, Hamilton and Webber became embroiled in a battle for P1, trading fastest times with just over fifteen minutes of the session to run. They, like the rest of the field, duly opted to pit in order to complete a qualifying simulation run on the softer medium tire in the final few minutes of the session. A surprise returnee was Sergio Perez, with the floor on his McLaren fixed and a fresh set of option tires fitted, only to spin his McLaren on the entry to the Hangar Straight. Further forward, Vettel began to show his pace to move into P3, but it was Rosberg who posted the fastest time on his final lap to go P1 just ahead of teammate Hamilton.

Once again, Mercedes look imperious over a single lap, but Rosberg’s long-run pace in practice still causes question over the prospect of a Silver Arrow winning the race on Sunday.

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.