Red Bull’s first home grand prix ends in disappointment

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Red Bull’s first ever home grand prix in Austria ended in disappointment today after Sebastian Vettel retired from the race and Daniel Ricciardo scored just four points.

The team made its F1 debut in 2005, two years after the last race in Austria, and the return of the event was brokered by the brand’s billionaire owner, Dietrich Mateschitz. However, at the Red Bull Ring today, things did not go to plan.

Qualifying had been bad enough for Sebastian Vettel on Saturday. The defending world champion could only qualify 13th, but was promoted to 12th after Sergio Perez served a five-place grid penalty. After holding position off the line, his race soon took a turn for the worse when his RB10 car lost drive.

As Vettel’s car coasted around the track, it looked like his race was over after just two laps. However, he somehow managed to reset what was wrong and get the car back going again – although by this time he was a lap down on the rest of the field.

His engineer, Rocky, told him to “go racing” and enjoy himself, but a run-in with Esteban Gutierrez meant that he had to pit for a new front wing. On lap 37, the team decided that enough was enough, and retired the car to save its engine.

Ricciardo, on the other hand, fared far better in qualifying, lining up fifth on the grid. However, a poor start saw him drop down the order and start battling for the small points with Daniil Kvyat and Nico Hulkenberg.

After Kvyat retired, Ricciardo managed to pick up a place, and continued to push before passing Hulkenberg on the last lap of the race to secure eighth position.

For a race that was intended to be Red Bull’s big show, just four points is a miserable offering. The team will be hoping to bounce back at the British Grand Prix in two weeks’ time, but the problems may not be resolved by then. Instead, it could be that seeing Vettel and Ricciardo struggle to compete is a running theme of the 2014 season.

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.