Ferrari still looking for answers after recent F1 reliability issues

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Ferrari Formula 1 technical chief Mattia Binotto has conceded the team does not yet fully understand the engine issues that hit both its cars in last weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix.

After suffering a double DNF following a first-lap clash in Singapore, Ferrari lost yet more ground to Mercedes in both championships last time out in Malaysia despite appearing to be the faster team.

A turbo issue on Sebastian Vettel’s power unit prevented the German from taking part in qualifying, leaving him to fight from the back of the grid to finish fourth, while Kimi Raikkonen did not even start the race due to a problem on his engine.

Asked whether the problems had been solved ahead of this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, Binotto conceded Ferrari was still yet to get to the root of them.

“You can never be fully confident of solving the problems you have got,” Binotto said.

“It’s true that the problems we had were completely unexpected. There are problems that we did not experience both at the dyno or at the race track during the entire season.

“There were some quality issues with the parts. We failed an inlet manifold of the engine, from the compressor to the cylinder heads, and it happened twice, because we had the same problem with Sebastian in qualifying and Kimi in the race.

“Obviously it happened twice in Malaysia, in an entire season, so certainly some boundary conditions have affected the overall reliability. This is something that we are analyzing.

“Obviously in parallel, we reinforce the components, but it’s something which we still need to better understand.”

Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne responded to the Malaysia defeat by saying changes would be made within the team to prevent a repeat, with Binotto confirming upcoming tweaks to the quality department to work against further failures.

“I think that to improve your performance you need to improve your car and your package but as well you need to improve your organization,” Binotto said.

“What we are considering is something, already planned, is to improve our quality department. Our quality department will be and somehow is already reinforced, and those are the changes that our chairman was meaning.”

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.