Raikkonen: Ferrari atmosphere better than ever

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Kimi Raikkonen believes that the atmosphere at Ferrari in 2015 is better than any he has experienced throughout his Formula 1 career, praising the changes that were made at Maranello over the winter.

The Finn endured a difficult return to Ferrari in 2014, finishing a lowly 12th in the drivers’ championship and with a best finish of fourth at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Raikkonen has made an improved start to the 2015 season though, finishing fourth in Malaysia and China as Ferrari’s revival begins to come to fruition.

Off track, a number of personnel changes were made at Maranello over the winter, and Raikkonen believes that the atmosphere is now better than ever for the team.

“I must say in the past when I was here in Ferrari there were good times and a good atmosphere, but this year is the best I’ve had in any team,” Raikkonen told reporters in Bahrain.

“How the team works together, how people work together, how the atmosphere is and how things have been going – that tells you a lot.”

Raikkonen’s contract with Ferrari expires at the end of the 2015 season, but the team does have an option to extend the deal by one more year and retain the Finn for 2016.

In a separate interview with the official F1 website, Raikkonen said that questions about his future could only really be answered by Ferrari.

“That is up to the team to decide,” Raikkonen said. “They have an option on my services, so go and ask them!”

Part of the improved atmosphere at Maranello appears to be a result of the arrival of four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, who is good friends with Raikkonen.

The Finn admitted that having a teammate he could speak directly and frankly with was a big help, as is Vettel’s unpolitical nature.

“The good thing is that if there is something, we can talk to each other,” Raikkonen said. “We can talk to each other directly and not have to use mediators.

“But we don’t have any issues and I don’t expect us to have issues.”

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.