Mercedes left seeking answers after ‘difficult’ Malaysia F1 practice

Getty Images
0 Comments

Mercedes Formula 1 drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were both left seeking answers for their lack of pace during Friday’s practice sessions for the Malaysian Grand Prix, having been tipped to dominate heading into the weekend.

Hamilton opened up a 28-point lead at the top of the drivers’ championship two weeks ago in Singapore, with the maths involved in delivering a fourth world title already being worked out with six races to go.

Mercedes was expected to dominate at Sepang given the fast-flowing nature of the circuit, only for Ferrari to upstage the Silver Arrows and finish over a second clear in FP2 on Friday.

Hamilton finished FP2 sixth-fastest ahead of Bottas in seventh, with both trailing McLaren-Honda driver Fernando Alonso.

Hamilton and Bottas both had off-track excursions and struggled with an overall lack of grip, leaving them uneasy about their chances heading into the rest of the weekend.

“It’s been a very difficult day,” Hamilton admitted.

“I’ve been struggling with the car today, so we have to review and try to understand where we have gone wrong with the balance.

“We’re hoping that we’re able to find our bearings overnight and regroup for tomorrow.”

Bottas added: “Those were obviously tricky practice sessions. We had quite limited running because of the rain in the morning. I also had a bit of an off in FP2 that cost us some time, we lost a few laps because of that. And then there was of course the red flag in the end.

“We didn’t get all the test items tested today, but I think that is going to be the case with all the teams. We’re definitely lacking some performance, it seems like Ferrari and Red Bull are very strong. So we have some work to do if we want to be on the front row tomorrow.

“The car balance itself didn’t feel too bad; it’s just a question of overall grip. The key area we are going to need to focus on tonight will be getting the maximum out of the tires over one lap.”

Running continues in Malaysia on Saturday with FP3 (2am ET, NBC Sports app) followed by qualifying (5am ET, NBCSN).

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.