F1 2014 Primer: The Drivers

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As part of MotorSportsTalk’s preview of the new Formula 1 season, we have put together a run-down of the drivers that will be racing in the sport this season. With three rookies joining the fray and nine of the teams making a change to their line-up, the grid is looking incredibly different to where we left off in Brazil last November.

RED BULL RACING

#1 – Sebastian Vettel – four-time world champion chasing an unprecedented tenth straight win in Australia, but may be denied by problems with the RB10 car.
#3 – Daniel Ricciardo – promoted to Red Bull from Toro Rosso as Mark Webber’s replacement; yet to truly prove himself as a front-runner, but a strong qualifier.

MERCEDES

#44 – Lewis Hamilton – 2008 world champion looking for a second title; 2014 could be his best chance in years.
#6 – Nico Rosberg – three-time race winner, and an intelligent and astute driver. He may be a dark horse for the title.

SCUDERIA FERRARI

#14 – Fernando Alonso – two-time champion, but yet to claim a title with Ferrari. Could be a case of fifth time lucky, but rumors of a move to McLaren in 2015 persist.
#7 – Kimi Raikkonen – 2007 champion returns to Ferrari, the team with whom he won the title. Known for his blunt personality, but possesses great ability.

LOTUS F1 TEAM

#8 – Romain Grosjean – likeable Frenchman who came of age in the second half of 2013, losing his crash-kid label. Due his first grand prix victory in 2014.
#13 – Pastor Maldonado – one-time GP winner but very inconsistent, scoring just one point in 2013. Yet to prove himself in Formula 1.

MCLAREN MERCEDES

#22 – Jenson Button – 2009 champion and the second oldest driver on the grid. Known for smooth and calm driving style.
#20 – Kevin Magnussen – one of three rookies, but impressed McLaren enough to warrant Sergio Perez’s departure. Could be one to watch this year.

FORCE INDIA F1 TEAM

#11 – Sergio Perez – failed to impress at McLaren, although his efforts were hindered by the MP4-28. Could revive his career with Force India.
#27 – Nico Hulkenberg – one of the top drivers yet to win a grand prix; tipped as a possible successor to Alonso or Raikkonen at Ferrari.

SAUBER F1 TEAM

#99 – Adrian Sutil – after seven seasons with Force India, Sauber is only Sutil’s second team. Yet to reach the podium, occasional points scorer.
#21 – Esteban Gutierrez – ‘Rookie of the Year’ in 2013, albeit with only six points. Yet to truly show what he can do, and under pressure in 2014.

SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO

#25 – Jean-Eric Vergne – entering his third season, and has shown glimpses of potential, but missed out on the Red Bull seat. Hard to envisage a long-term future with Toro Rosso.
#26 – Daniil Kvyat – 2013 GP3 champion and surprise choice as Ricciardo’s replacement; has impressed during practice run-outs and in testing.

WILLIAMS MARTINI RACING

#19 – Felipe Massa – joins Williams after eight years at Ferrari; could flourish out of Alonso’s shadow and without the pressures of Maranello.
#77 – Valtteri Bottas – debut season was hampered by troublesome FW36, but certainly has the makings of a capable driver.

MARUSSIA F1 TEAM

#17 – Jules Bianchi – Ferrari protege who single-handedly won Marussia P10 in the constructors’ last year; a star in the making.
#4 – Max Chilton – only person in F1 history to ever finish every single race during his debut season, but rarely came outside of the bottom two classified drivers.

CATERHAM F1 TEAM

#10 – Kamui Kobayashi – returns to F1 after one year away, a real fan favorite with a huge following in Japan. Known for his aggressive driving style.
#9 – Marcus Ericsson – the third and final rookie, stepping up after four years in GP2. First Swedish driver since Stefan Johansson in 1991.

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.