Hamilton blisters Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Canadian GP FP1

Getty Images
0 Comments

Lewis Hamilton has gone nearly 1.5 seconds quicker than his own fastest first free practice time (1:16.212) set last year, in this morning’s first 90-minute free practice for the Canadian Grand Prix.

The four-time Canada winner, three-time World Champion and Monaco Grand Prix winner posted a flier of 1:14.755 in his Mercedes W07.

And considering the time was set on Pirelli’s supersoft compound rather than the ultrasoft compound, the softest compound available and brought to Montreal this weekend at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, it’s a foreboding omen for the rest of the weekend.

Hamilton had earlier set a 1:14.980, first into the 1:14 bracket, which set the scene for the rest of the session.

His Mercedes AMG Petronas teammate Nico Rosberg was second and Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel third, with Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing) and the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen completing the top five.

Rosberg was 0.331 of a second back on the ultrasoft tire, Vettel 0.488 of a second back; neither of the others in striking distance.

There was a sizable accident with just over an hour left in the session. Felipe Massa lost control into Turn 1 in his Williams Martini Racing entry – Massa noting on the radio he had a problem when he tried to fully close the Drag Reduction System – and it sent him into the Turn 1 tire barrier, rear end first.

Massa was OK; the car, not so much. Meanwhile the irony of a Martini-supported car crashing into the newly Heineken-sponsored barrier wasn’t lost on the Twitterverse.

There were also several instances of drivers running in deep at the final chicane before the infamous “Wall of Champions.” Hamilton was particularly salty at McLaren Honda’s Fernando Alonso at one point, saying of the two-time World Champion on the radio, “Pretty dangerous of Fernando there.” Valtteri Bottas (behind Verstappen), Daniel Ricciardo and Alonso himself were others caught going in too deep.

There were a number of other lockups and off-course excursions – Verstappen had a full oppo-lock tribute to Villeneuve at the hairpin at one point – but no other incidents.

Jenson Button, meanwhile, had what was termed a “temperature problem” on his McLaren Honda and after repairs, needed to pit in the waning moments of the session.

The ultrasoft compound didn’t get a ton of running this morning, instead most teams opting to run longer stints on the supersoft and soft compounds in race run preparation. Montreal is notoriously a low grip circuit that takes time to rubber in.

Free practice two is live from 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extrawith Off the Grid: Shanghai due to premiere right after at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Times are below:

Jack Miller wins the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his downward points’ slide

0 Comments

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.