Rosberg laments poor start as title hopes fade

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Nico Rosberg was left frustrated after a poor start in Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix cost him the chance to cut the gap to Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton at the top of the Formula 1 drivers’ championship.

Rosberg arrived at Suzuka trailing Hamilton by 41 points, but looked capable of cutting the gap to the Briton after claiming his second pole position of the season on Saturday.

However, a poor start from Rosberg allowed Hamilton to take the inside line at the first corner before squeezing his teammate on the exit and dropping him down to fourth place.

Rosberg managed to fight back through the race to pass Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel en route to finishing second, but admitted on the podium after the race that his title hopes are now fading.

“Lewis just got a better start, fair play, and then it was a good battle into turn one but in turn two he had the inside and just made it stick, so that was the end of it there,” Rosberg explained.

“Then it was great to fight back to second place, because fourth place would definitely not have been acceptable. Second was the best possible thing after that, so I was happy with the fight-back and great also for us as a team.

“[The championship] is going the wrong way, definitely. I had to win today, that was important but it didn’t work out. Just need to try to win next time out.”

Rosberg now trails Hamilton by 48 points at the top of the drivers’ championship, and with five races remaining is in need to a drastic turnaround in fortunes if he is to deny his teammate a third world title in 2015.

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.