Wehrlein nears DTM title, but does F1 beckon?

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Mercedes Formula 1 junior driver Pascal Wehrlein took a big step towards winning the 2015 DTM championship at the Nürburgring on Sunday by extending his series lead to 37 points ahead of next month’s finale at Hockenheim.

Wehrlein has tested for Mercedes and Force India in F1 over the past 12 months, and was known to have held talks with the latter about a possible drive in 2016.

At the age of 20, Wehrlein is now on the cusp of winning one of Europe’s premier touring car series after finishing third and fifth in this weekend’s races at the Nürburgring.

The German driver felt aggrieved after being forced off the track by Maxime Martin in Saturday’s race, but was more upbeat at the end of the weekend as his rivals lost more ground in the title race.

Wehrlein added an additional ten points to his championship lead over the weekend, which now stands at 37 points with just 50 remaining at next month’s two-race finale at Hockenheim.

With Mercedes close to striking an engine deal with Manor for 2016, it has been mooted that Wehrlein could get a drive with the team as part of the deal.

However, team boss Toto Wolff remained wary when discussing the German’s future, saying that he wanted to see how he fared in DTM before making any firm decisions.

“We have Pascal, who is with us, whose main focus is DTM, and I don’t want to take him away from that focus,” Wolff said in Suzuka this weekend.

“He has done a great job for us and he is a very exciting young driver, but I’d rather like to see how DTM pans out.”

The 2015 DTM season comes to a close at Hockenheim on October 18, which will be Wehrlein’s 21st birthday. However, unless nearest rival Edoardo Mortara outscores him by 12 points the day before, he will be crowned champion at the age of 20 with one race to spare.

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.