F1 2016 Driver Review: Kevin Magnussen

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Kevin Magnussen

Team: Renault
Car No.: 20
Races: 21
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: 7th (Russia)
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 7
Laps Led: 0
Championship Position: 16th

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

K-Mag returned to Formula 1 full-time in 2016 with Renault, snapping up Pastor Maldonado’s seat at Renault after the Venezuelan’s funding fell through. Expectations were high, with most seeing this as a second chance for the Dane following his one-year stint with McLaren in 2014, but he was ultimately hamstrung by circumstances at the team.

2016 was always going to be a year of rebuilding for Renault, with the R.S.16 car offering little in the way of development from the 2015 Lotus. Nevertheless, Magnussen managed to claim a hugely impressive seventh-place finish in Russia, avoiding chaos at the start and holding on to his place in the top 10. Only one more point followed in Singapore, leaving him with a final total of seven for the season.

While disappointing in terms of points, Magnussen did significantly outperform teammate Jolyon Palmer through the first half of the year. It will be interesting to see if he can finally come good in 2017 when he moves to Haas, partnering Romain Grosjean.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Renault’s youth-only lineup of Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer, in a first-year factory reboot effort after its past run as Lotus (which was Renault before that), didn’t inspire much confidence going into the year.

Magnussen’s second F1 campaign wasn’t near as good as his first one. Other than an opportunistic drive to seventh at Russia, there were few highlights to be found. Instead, Magnussen’s only real memorable moments came with his accident at Spa – he was OK – and his car’s fire in the pits in Malaysia.

This was an interesting dynamic for Magnussen in that he theoretically should have been team leader, but already has left after one season with Nico Hulkenberg coming on board next year. At best case, Magnussen will learn from Romain Grosjean at Haas in 2017, and be able to score more points. He’ll also have the unique note of having run all four V6 power units in as many years – Mercedes, Honda, Renault and next year Ferrari – once he takes the green at Melbourne.

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.