Vettel: F1 “still not completely safe” 20 years after Senna’s death

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As Formula One and the racing world prepares to mark the 20th anniversary of the death of legendary driver Ayrton Senna, its reigning World Champion, Sebastian Vettel, has noted that while F1 has made increased safety advances since the tragedy, the sport is still not immune to another disaster.

Senna lost his life in a crash at the San Marino Grand Prix on May 1, 1994, and he remains the last driver to die in an F1 Grand Prix. A day earlier, Austrian competitor Roland Ratzenberger had been killed at Imola in a wreck during qualifying for the race.

Since that dark weekend, F1 and the sport itself has undergone a safety revolution that continues to this day. Stronger chassis, wheel tethers, bigger runoff areas at tracks, and head and neck restraints are now the norm.

But even with all of that progress – and all of the progress to come in the future – the danger remains.

“Formula One is safer today but it is still not completely safe because there is still so much that can happen,” Vettel said according to a report from Australian news agency AAP. “…Unfortunately, it always took accidents and negative events for us to learn the most.”

A series of commemorations for Senna and Ratzenberger are scheduled to take place over a five-day span at Imola this week. The Associated Press reports that following a memorial mass on Wednesday, an F1 safety symposium will be held the next day – the exact anniversary of Senna’s death.

Vettel has recalled that moment as an event “where you exactly remember where you’ve been [and] what you’ve done.”

“I remember that I was watching television with my father and obviously as a child, you don’t really understand what’s going on, but just by the reaction of my father, I obviously got to understand that it was very serious and a big loss for Formula One,” Vettel told the AP.

“I think only later on and probably the last couple years, I managed to understand how big the loss was for the sport because I got to work with people that used to know him, [and worked] with him. He was the reason why my father decided to follow Formula One.”

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.