Vettel happy to answer Ferrari’s critics with Abu Dhabi podium

© Getty Images
1 Comment

Sebastian Vettel was happy to answer Ferrari’s critics by finishing third in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, rounding out the 2016 Formula 1 season with a podium.

Vettel and Ferrari had been expected to take the fight to Mercedes after an impressive first year working together in 2015, only for the pace of the SF16-H car to leave the Italian marque third in the pecking order as Red Bull moved ahead.

Vettel qualified fifth in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, but made a risky strategy work well to go on a late charge with the super-soft tires fitted, battling his way up to third place in the closing stages.

Vettel was in with a shot of taking Ferrari’s first win in over a year as race leader Lewis Hamilton tried back Nico Rosberg up in a last-ditch attempt to claim the championship, only to fall 1.4 seconds shy at the checkered flag.

“It was tough out there, the last couple of laps. I didn’t want to be in his shoes,” Vettel said, referring to newly-crowned champion Rosberg.

“I was trying to get close and have another go. I thought why not pass both of them if Lewis is going that slow in front! It was difficult, my tires were also dropping towards the end.

“Bit stuck at the beginning of the race. I was starting to get a bit frustrated. Once I had clean air, I could really unleash the pace that we had today.”

For Vettel, the result acted as an answer to many of his own and Ferrari’s critics in a season that has seen the Italian marque come under fire for not pushing Mercedes at the front.

“I think the whole team deserves the podium today. We’ve worked so hard,” Vettel said.

“We’ve had so much criticism this year, sometimes right, sometimes not justified. That’s how it goes, it’s a tough game. We’re fighting really tough opponents.

“It’s been a tough year but obviously it’s nice to finish on a high. We take that momentum into next year.”

The result also clinched fourth place in the drivers’ championship for Vettel, beating Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by eight points in the final standings.

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.