Hamilton heads up Mercedes 1-2 in second practice

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Lewis Hamilton has bounced back from a problematic opening session in Melbourne to head up a Mercedes 1-2 during second practice for the Australian Grand Prix on Friday.

The 2008 world champion completed just half a lap during the morning session due to a problem with the oil pressure sensor, but he responded in perfect fashion to top second practice on Friday evening at Albert Park.

Hamilton was closely followed at the top of the timesheets by teammate Nico Rosberg, underlining Mercedes’ title of pre-season favorites. However, the pace of both Red Bull and Ferrari suggests that the Silver Arrows may not have it all their own way this weekend.

The second session got underway with a number of drivers heading out early in order to make up for any time lost during the first 90-minute practice on Friday. Marcus Ericsson and Adrian Sutil were two of the first drivers out, with the latter setting the initial benchmark of 1:38.055 in his Sauber. However, this did not last long at the top of the timesheets as Rosberg soon claimed P1 with a lap of 1:32.013.

Having seen Fernando Alonso finish fastest in FP1, Ferrari appeared to be in good spirits, but the team hit trouble with its second car as Kimi Raikkonen failed to select first gear and had to be pushed back to his box from the end of the pit lane. The Finn did manage to return to the track once his car had been reset.

Meanwhile, Red Bull looked to bounce back from a difficult pre-season and showed some very encouraging pace. Daniel Ricciardo was the first driver to better Rosberg’s time, but the German soon re-claimed top spot. Sebastian Vettel underlined the pace of the RB10 soon after though, moving up into second place between Rosberg and his teammate, but he was pushed down one place by Fernando Alonso who claimed P2 at the halfway point in the session.

With 40 minutes remaining, Lewis Hamilton rose to the top of the timesheets with a lap that was 0.157 seconds quicker than his teammate’s. This time would ultimately be good enough for him to finish fastest of all.

In the final third of the session, the times remained relatively unchanged as the teams began to focus on their long runs with high fuel. After an extended period in the pits, Romain Grosjean managed to come out on track, but the Lotus E22 was clearly a handful as a he wrestled with the car through the final sector.

Caterham’s weekend failed to improve as Ericsson failed to set a time whilst Kamui Kobayashi could not even complete an installation lap due to a problem with the power unit on his CT-05 car.

In terms of long run pace, Mercedes and Red Bull were closely matched in the final part of the session, with Williams lingering around half a second back. For all of the problems that the world champions have suffered throughout the winter, there finally appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel.

With five minutes to go, both Grosjean and Nico Hulkenberg went off into the gravel and beached their cars, bringing out waved yellow flags whilst they were recovered.

Come the checkered flag, Hamilton and Rosberg comfortably occupied the top two positions, suggesting that Mercedes is still the team to beat in Australia this weekend.

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.