Daniel Ricciardo focused on Red Bull amid Ferrari link

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Daniel Ricciardo has affirmed his commitment to Red Bull for the forthcoming Formula 1 season after being linked with a drive at Ferrari for 2017 by 1980 world champion Alan Jones.

Speaking to the Australian Grand Prix podcast ahead of this weekend’s race, Jones said that he thought Ferrari should sign Ricciardo for 2017 in place of Kimi Raikkonen in a move that would see him rejoin ex-Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel.

“They’ve obviously got plans for what they’re going to do next year, which I hope is going to be Daniel Ricciardo,” Jones said.

“They’re probably thinking ‘stick with the known factor [for now] – we’ve got Vettel, we’ve got Kimi’. [Kimi] does on occasion put up a good race, so I think they’ve done the right thing.

“But in terms of Daniel, I’m really confident [and] hopeful that he’ll land that Ferrari seat next year.”

Ricciardo is one of a number of drivers out of contract at the end of the 2016 season, but had little to say when asked about Jones’ comments on Thursday in Melbourne.

“I don’t know if Seb wants that, to be honest, so we’ll see,” Ricciardo said. “I heard AJ say… or I heard some comments yesterday and got asked the question. Yeah, last year I was asked as well. I honestly can’t… I don’t have much more to say on that.

“It’s still very early in the season and to give you a boring but honest answer is that I’m just completely focused on this year now and with Red Bull. That’s where it stands. Not exactly out of contract either. Don’t get too excited.”

Vettel and Ricciardo spent a year together racing at Red Bull in 2014 that saw the Australian driver beat his four-time champion teammate across the course of the season.

The two joked throughout the question, with Vettel taking his Ferrari hat off and putting it on Ricciardo’s head momentarily.

“I don’t mind Danny, we’ve never had issues,” Vettel said.

“Obviously the year we had together was very good for him, not so good for me. I think that’s one thing that happens on the track but outside the track, which I think is more important when you talk about your teammate.

“Whether you get along or not, we never had [problems] – at least I don’t remember… It’s a bit weird when he gets changed but other than that…”

Ricciardo added: “I walk around in my underwear a lot! Get comfortable with that. This question’s gone pear- shaped, hasn’t it? Next question…”

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.