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Rossi: Marquez protection of Lorenzo “embarrassing” for MotoGP

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Valentino Rossi has accused Marc Marquez of deliberately protecting Jorge Lorenzo during Sunday’s MotoGP title decider in Valencia to try and help the Spaniard win the championship.

Yamaha rider Lorenzo claimed his third MotoGP title after beating Marquez and Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa to the race win, having spent the entirety of the race holding the pair back.

Rossi charged from last position on the grid to finish fourth, but it was not enough to give him a tenth world championship as he finished the season five points behind Lorenzo.

Speaking after the race, Rossi once again accused Marquez of deliberately trying to stop him from winning the championship, claiming that the Spaniard could have passed Lorenzo had he tried.

“I think that after Motegi I had the potential to win the championship, but unfortunately from the race in Phillip Island something changed, and in these last three races we saw something that we never saw before in our sport,” Rossi said.

“I think that the situation was already bad, but today was embarrassing for everybody because it was unbelievable, the behaviour of Marquez is something very bad for everything, especially for the sport.

“It is something that nobody expects, because a Honda rider that made a Yamaha rider win and give the maximum just to push out his teammate is something that nobody expect and I think it is very, very bad news. Anyway, it is like this, we have to accept.”

Despite his evident disappointment after missing out on the championship, Rossi was pleased that Marquez’s actions in Valencia proved the accusations about collusion he made in Australia.

“I am happy because now everybody see what I said in Australia and I don’t understand the behaviour of Marquez, but sincerely for me it is very difficult to say something to him because I hope that he will understand what he did in these last three races in the future of his career,” Rossi said.

“For sure the Hondas were faster. We know that in the second part of the race Honda have a better potential but Marquez just protected Lorenzo like he did in Phillip Island and also Sepang.

“At the end I think that also Lorenzo [has] to not be very happy, as it is not a championship that was won on track.”

Lewis Hamilton takes F1 pole in dramatic Russian GP qualifying

Russian pole Lewis Hamilton
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SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton took a step closer to equaling the Formula One win record Saturday by clinching pole position at the Russian Grand Prix, after narrowly avoiding early elimination when Sebastian Vettel crashed.

Hamilton charged to a track-record time of 1 minute, 31.304 seconds, beating the Red Bull of Max Verstappen by 0.563 for his fifth straight pole position. Hamilton can achieve his 91st career win in the race on Sunday, matching the record held by Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, was beaten into third by Verstappen’s fast run at the end of the session and was .652 off Hamilton’s time.

The long run from the grid to the first significant turn means Bottas could yet threaten to overtake Hamilton at the start Sunday using the slipstream from his teammate’s car.

“It’s nice being on pole but here is probably the worst place to be on pole,” Hamilton said.

“This year you’re seeing that our cars are more draggy and there’s more tow this year than we’ve seen in other years. So I generally expect one of (Verstappen and Bottas) to come flying by at some point. I think I’m just going to focus on my race and run the fastest race I can.”

Bottas earned his first win at the 2017 race in Russia after starting third and overtaking the two Ferraris ahead of him at the start.

Verstappen and Bottas both start the race on medium tires, which could give them an edge in terms of pit strategy over Hamilton, who is on soft tires, which wear much faster.

“I’m just going to have to nurse those tires for as far as I can. These guys, if they get by, they’re going to be pulling away,” Hamilton said.

Verstappen said he was delighted to start second.

“I wasn’t expecting that and of course it’s great for us. If we can get a good start tomorrow you never know what can happen,” he said.

Vettel lost control of his car over the kerb on the inside of the 90-degree, right-hand turn four and spun into the wall, before the Ferrari bounced back onto the track. Teammate Charles Leclerc was following closely behind and narrowly missed the wrecked car, driving over its discarded front wing.

“Oh my God, that was very, very close,” Leclerc told his team over the radio. Leclerc qualified 11th and Vettel 15th as Ferrari failed to reach the top-10 shootout with either car for the third time in four races.

Vettel’s crash meant the red flag was waved while Hamilton was trying to set his first valid lap time to make the third session – after his first attempt was earlier ruled out for going off the track.

After the track was cleared and the session restarted, Hamilton had to rush his out-lap to make it over the line in time for another flying lap with just a second to spare.

“It was horrible,” Hamilton said. “Heart in the mouth.”

Hamilton was also asked to report to race stewards over another incident in which he went off the track in the first part of qualifying. No further action was taken. It was found Hamilton didn’t gain an advantage because the lap time wasn’t counted.

Hamilton is the runaway championship leader with a 55-point advantage over second-place Bottas and 80 over Verstappen. If he can earn four more pole positions in the last seven races, he would be the first driver to 100 in F1 history.

Earlier in the third and final practice Saturday morning, Hamilton set the pace with a time of 1 minute, 33.279 seconds that was 0.776 better than his Mercedes teammate Bottas, who had been quickest in the first two sessions.