Sauber struggles due to 2013 development, not Ferrari engine

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Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn has said that the team is not pointing the finger at engine supplier Ferrari for its struggles in 2014, but admitted that there are no positives to be taken from the first half of the season.

The Swiss team has failed to score any points, marking its worst-ever start to a Formula 1 season. Drivers Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez have struggled with the C33 car, but when chances for points came about in Monaco and Hungary, mistakes were made and the opportunity passed.

2014 has been hailed as the year of the power unit, where the quality of the engine is the dominant factor. Ferrari’s unit is known to be down on power compared to that of Mercedes, but Kaltenborn is refusing to blame the Italian marque for Sauber’s struggles.

“It is one of the major factors, but I don’t think it is as easy as saying it is somebody else’s fault,” she explained to Formula1.com. “We always have to look at ourselves first and, being very honest about it, this car is definitely not one of the better cars that we’ve built.

“We have a very long lasting partnership with Ferrari and in all these years we’ve gone through good and not such good times, but you stick together and get through it.

“I am very sure that if I am unhappy and dissatisfied, then my colleagues at Ferrari have double that amount of frustration, so I don’t need to worry about that.”

Kaltenborn admitted in the interview that she could not take any positives out of Sauber’s start to the season, believing that the root of the problems came from the decision to continue development of the C32 in 2013.

“If you look at the performance itself – I think with all the optimism you can imagine, and I have a lot of optimism – I cannot see anything positive,” she conceded. “What I think we have to keep in mind is why we are where we are today.

“That goes back to last season where we took a decision to continue on that year’s car, knowing full well that this would mean taking a considerable risk on the new 2014 car, and the development of that car in light of the massive changes which were coming up.

“We took that decision and it turned out to be the right decision for last season, but we didn’t expect that we would be facing as many issues as we are 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.