Pirelli defend questionable tire choices in India

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Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery has defended the decision to bring a softer tire allocation to the Indian Grand Prix despite a number of drivers suffering from blistering during practice today.

Many of the runners at the Buddh International Circuit complained of problems with their tires after Pirelli opted to bring a softer tire to the race this weekend, with Kimi Raikkonen being particular vocal on his team radio about the issues. Nevertheless, Hembery has remained defiant, believing that this decision will improve the racing and prevent a one-stop race.

“Essentially we went for softer compounds this time as in 2012 the Indian Grand Prix was just a one-stop race, and the combination we brought this year allows for a two to three stop strategy,” Hembery said. “After what we have seen today, wear and degradation is generally in line with our expectations but there have been some issues with blistering on the soft compound while some drivers ran up to twenty-four laps on the medium tire.”

Hembery is confident that the medium tire will be widely used during the race on Sunday, with the softer compound being used sparingly during qualifying and in the first few laps of the race.

“The medium seems set to be the optimal race tire, while the soft tire should be the one to qualify on, as it has been about 0.8 seconds to a second per lap faster up to now,” he explained. “Assessing the drop-off in performance will be the key to formulating the strategy and the timing of the first pit stop. Consequently, some teams will also be evaluating the potential benefits of starting on the medium.”

However, with the tire wear being so aggressive, we could see a repeat of the qualifying debacle that ensued at the Chinese Grand Prix back in April where there was limited running for the majority of the session on Saturday.

Jack Miller wins MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his 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.