Mercedes: Safer for Hamilton to mimic Rosberg’s strategy

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Mercedes has defended its decision to reject Lewis Hamilton’s request for an alternative strategy during Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix, believing that allowing him to make his own call could have cost him second place at Interlagos.

Hamilton spent the majority of the race tailing Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, but was unable to get close enough to attempt an overtake.

Hamilton asked the Mercedes pit wall following his first stop if there were any alternative strategies that he could run, only to be told that he was to stick to the original plan.

Mercedes did eventually move both Rosberg and Hamilton from a two-stop strategy onto a three-stopper, bringing in the latter just one lap later for each tire change.

Speaking after the race, Mercedes team chiefs Toto Wolff and Paddy Lowe defended the decision to make Hamilton follow Rosberg’s strategy due to the threat of Sebastian Vettel in third. The Ferrari driver finished just 6.5 seconds behind Hamilton at the end of the race.

“In the second stint [Hamilton] asked about an alternative strategy, but the only option was to convert to three stops which was ten seconds slower in terms of overall race time and would have put his second place at risk to Vettel,” Wolff explained.

“Then, the situation changed in our favour when Vettel converted to a three-stop strategy, which allowed us to do the same and control any threat from behind to the end of the race.”

Lowe said that Mercedes would always stick to its policy of letting its drivers race on track and not giving strategic preference to either Hamilton or Rosberg if it risks track position.

“There was a point in the second stint when Lewis asked if anything could be done about a different strategy, but the only alternative at that point was the slower three-stopper,” Lowe said.

“With others looking like they were two-stopping, we didn’t want to risk handing second place to Ferrari.

“Our policy is to let our drivers race and also to allow them to explore viable alternative strategies, as we have shown in the past – but we don’t let them pursue a bad alternative strategy at any cost.”

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.