Mercedes pushed for ‘minor revolutions’ with new W07 car

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Mercedes technical chief Paddy Lowe says that the team has tried to make a series of “minor revolutions” with its new W07 Formula 1 car due to the relative stability in the regulations for 2016.

Mercedes stormed to a second straight set of drivers’ and constructors’ championships in 2015 as the W06 car broke a number of records in the hands of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

With the technical regulations for 2016 remaining rather stable, finding more time and areas for improvement on the new car may prove difficult, but Lowe is confident that Mercedes has upped its game for the forthcoming season.

“It’s difficult to have a complete revolution when the rules have stayed pretty much the same year on year,” Lowe said. “But we aim to make minor revolutions wherever we can – even within a small context.

“We may look at a completely new packaging solution or suspension concept, for instance. So, while the car may look very similar to its predecessor from the outside – as is inherent within stable regulations – underneath there are quite a lot of mini revolutions that make up an overall evolution for the new season.”

Lowe was pleased that Mercedes’ engineers managed to find areas for improvement even in seemingly static areas of the car design.

“It’s very tough to find performance under a stable set of regulations and we were particularly pleased with how the car turned out in 2015 when we had the same situation,” Lowe said.

“The team did a fantastic job, digging very deep to find all sorts of innovations in areas that might have been considered static. 2016 is another carry-over year from a regulatory point of view and potential gains inevitably become harder to find under these circumstances.

“This is what tests an engineering team the most and I must say that this team has been very good at that. It’s far easier to find performance when you have a new set of rules, that’s for sure.”

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.