Palmer comfortable in Lotus reserve role after FP1 run-outs

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Jolyon Palmer feels that he has settled into life in Formula 1 well after enjoying two practice run-outs for Lotus F1 Team so far this season.

Palmer won last year’s GP2 Series title, but was unable to secure a full-time seat in F1 and instead joined Lotus in a reserve role for 2015.

The Briton took part in the first free practice session for the Chinese and Bahrain Grands Prix over the last two weekends, setting respectable times in comparison to full-time drivers Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado in both sessions.

“It’s great to get on track with all the other F1 drivers and to be part of a grand prix weekend finally,” Palmer said.

“China was a really good experience as I had so much to learn: the procedures, the track – as China was a new track for me, etc. Shanghai was all about learning as much as possible.

“Then Bahrain was a good opportunity just a week after my first FP1 outing. It’s a circuit that I was already familiar with and where it overall went better. My pace was more competitive, I made no mistake; it was more straightforward.”

Palmer admitted that it had taken time to adjust to the bigger scale of F1 after stepping up from GP2, but he is now feeling very comfortable as part of the Lotus team.

“There’s been a lot to take in since the start of the season: how the team works, who’s who; how the weekend schedules work,” he said.

“It’s very different from I was used to in GP2. The team here is bigger, there’s a lot more detail and a lot more people with different roles and responsibilities.

“Throughout the first four races of the season I have learnt a lot and now I feel so much more comfortable with everything.”

Palmer will get his next taste of the Lotus E23 Hybrid at Brands Hatch – a circuit owned by his father, Jonathan – on Monday in a team filming day.

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.