F1 2016 Driver Review: Fernando Alonso

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Fernando Alonso

Team: McLaren Honda
Car No.: 14
Races: 20
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: 5th (Monaco, USA)
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 54
Laps Led: 0
Championship Position: 10th

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Fernando Alonso pulled his usual trick of far outstripping the capabilities of his car in 2016. The McLaren-Honda MP4-31 was not the pig that the 2015 runner was, but Alonso still should not have finished in the top 10 in the drivers’ championship with it. It wasn’t that good.

But, naturally, Alonso did it anyway. He dragged the car kicking and screaming up the grid, scoring points on a regular basis and taking the fight to the Mercedes-powered Force India and Williams teams. Given he started the year with a terrifying crash that forced him to miss a race through injury, his feats are all the more impressive.

Alonso’s finest hour came in Monaco when, in drying conditions, he was able to keep his McLaren ahead of Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg for the entire race en route to fifth place. It was a result that would have been unthinkable 12 months prior.

Alonso was a thorn in the side of the Williams and Force India drivers in their battle, picking up a set of P7 results in the second half of the year, and even finishing fifth in Austin after a late-race bump with Felipe Massa. The Spaniard’s aggressive style continues to delight us all.

Quite what 2017 holds for McLaren remains unclear, but you would imagine that if the car is even half-decent, Alonso will be able to work wonders with it.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

The leap from 11 points and 17th place in the championship to 54 and 10th in one year spoke volumes about how much of a regulation badass Fernando Alonso is and continues to be. The Spaniard had no business finishing this high in points considering the McLaren Honda, while much better than the nightmare that was 2015, was still only sixth or seventh best chassis in the field.

Yet in nearly every instance, the two-time World Champion seized his chances when they were there and ultimately left no more than maybe five or six extra points on the table. Two fifth-place finishes, a sixth and four sevenths made for a good haul.

The hope is that with the new regulations next year, McLaren Honda can be even better. Alonso’s efforts and patience the last two years deserve a return to a podium and race-winning contender of a car. Maybe then, the #PlacesAlonsoWouldRatherBe meme will finally have run its course and Alonso’s place as one of this generation’s greatest drivers will finally come back into full view.

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.