Jerez Day 1 leader Raikkonen: “Lap times don’t mean anything”

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Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen may have topped the charts in the opening day of Formula One preseason testing today at Jerez, but the former World Champion indicated that speed is not the top priority for the Scuderia.

The same could be said for the other teams in the paddock as well, considering the massive technical shift that has taken place ahead of the 2014 season.

Raikkonen logged a 1 minute, 27.104-second lap in the Ferrari F14 T, enough to out-hustle another ex-World Champion in Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes (1:27.820) for P1 at the end of the day.

However, as you’d probably expect from Raikkonen, he promptly downplayed that aspect from an opening day that saw only 93 combined laps turned.

“The biggest challenge is just getting all the things working as we want,” he said according to Agence France-Presse. “Everyone wants to see more laps and obviously, we want to do more laps, but it is pretty normal with such a big change. It will take time before we can all go at 100 percent.”

“Lap times don’t mean anything right now. We are just trying to get the car working as well as we can.”

Sure enough, Ferrari noted in the team’s test report that “work centered exclusively on checking the functionality of the F14 T’s on-board systems and some aerodynamic mapping.”

Raikkonen, who is set to test the F14 T again tomorrow before handing it over to Fernando Alonso, wound up logging 31 laps today – a total of 13 more than Hamilton (2nd, 1:27.820) got in before he crashed in Turn 1 after a front wing failure on his team’s new W05. Third-fastest man Valtteri Bottas of Williams (1:30.082) only logged seven circuits in the FW36.

It should also be noted that Raikkonen’s quick time today was more than eight seconds slower than Jenson Button’s chart-topping time in the first day of Jerez testing last year, a lap of 1 minute, 18.861 seconds.

But as Raikkonen said, reliability is the most important thing for everybody right now.

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.