Raikkonen leads Ferrari one-two in second Chinese GP practice

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Kimi Raikkonen headed up a Ferrari one-two in the second free practice session for the Chinese Grand Prix on Friday afternoon in Shanghai.

After seeing Mercedes set the pace in a truncated opening practice on Friday morning, Raikkonen picked up the mantle in FP2 with a fastest lap of 1:36.896 on the super-soft tire.

His time with 30 minutes remaining in the session was enough to give him P1 come the checkered flag, edging out Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel by one-tenth of a second.

Both drivers completed fast runs on super-softs to leapfrog the Mercedes duo of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, who were left to settle for third and fourth place respectively.

Rosberg bounced back from an ignition issue at the end of first practice to beat Hamilton once again, with Mercedes preferring to focus on race simulations in the latter part of the session.

Daniel Ricciardo strengthened Red Bull’s case for being the ‘best of the rest’ behind Mercedes and Ferrari by finishing fifth in FP2 ahead of Toro Rosso youngster Max Verstappen.

Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez put in an impressive display for Force India, charging to seventh and ninth place respectively. Carlos Sainz Jr. split the pair in the second Toro Rosso. Valtteri Bottas rounded out the top 10 for Williams.

Felipe Massa bounced back from two tire failures in FP1 to finish the session 14th, but Kevin Magnussen was forced to sit out the session due to the damage sustained to his Renault in a separate incident earlier in the day.

It proved to be another difficult session for Haas as Esteban Gutierrez was sidelined by a brake fire early on. The Mexican driver was forced to miss FP1 due to an electrical issue, and was prevented from recovering the lost mileage in second practice to compound a tough day.

Qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix is on NBCSN and Live Extra from 3am ET on Saturday.

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.