Wolff: Mercedes stronger for 2016 challenges, hungry for more success in ’17

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Mercedes Formula 1 chief Toto Wolff believes that the team has emerged stronger for the challenges it faced through the 2016 season, but remains hungry for more success next year.

Mercedes swept to a third straight championship double in 2016, with Nico Rosberg claiming his maiden drivers’ title ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton.

The pair shared 19 race wins, marking a new record for a team in one season, and started on pole for all but one race.

Rosberg announced five days after winning the championship that he would be retiring from racing with immediate effect, leaving Mercedes with the task of finding a replacement ahead of the 2017 campaign.

Following a challenging season, Wolff sent a Christmas message to the entire Mercedes workforce reflecting on the campaign and looking ahead to next year.

Here is the message in full:

2016 has been a remarkable year. Our team has broken records in the history books; we have pursued our goals with passion and determination; and we were tested at each turn by unexpected challenges.

Nico was crowned champion and then departed the stage. Lewis needed strength of character to handle defeat with composure and dignity. We celebrated our success and we learned from our mistakes. Through all these moments, we have emerged stronger and more capable to face together the road ahead.

Our position in the spotlight puts every decision taken and every word spoken under an intense microscope. They are debated passionately among our fans and interpreted by the media.

But there has been enough talking, now. This is the period for calm and considered reflection; to savor our achievements and prepare for the next campaign.

As we move forward, we will continue to be guided above all by the best interest of our team. This philosophy is bigger than any one season or any one person.

It has forged a group that is humble in victory and gracious in defeat; hungry for challenge and resilient under pressure; never satisfied with the status quo, always seeking to improve.

Our values have been the foundation stones of three world championships. And there will be no compromise as we begin our quest for a fourth in 2017.

It is now time for some days away from the world of racing, to be enjoyed among family and friends. To recharge the batteries for the bigger challenges ahead.

We will tackle new rules, welcome a new race driver and take on even stronger rivals. It will test our team’s character, strength and capability. Bring it on!

With my best wishes to you all for a very happy Christmas,

Toto.

Jack Miller wins MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his 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.