F1 2017 driver review: Fernando Alonso

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Fernando Alonso

Team: McLaren
Car No.: 14
Races: 19
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P6 (Hungary)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 17
Championship Position: 15th

Fernando Alonso’s 2017 Formula 1 campaign was the same old story we’ve grown accustomed to during his second stint at McLaren: a mix of frustration and exceeding expectations.

The writing was on the wall for McLaren and Honda in pre-season, with the Japanese manufacturer’s decision to redesign its power unit layout backfiring dramatically, denying the team both performance and reliability.

Retirements in the first two races were followed by a lonely run outside of the points in Bahrain, with Alonso retiring late on due to a claimed engine problem. The paddock generally believes the engine was totally fine; it was a statement from Alonso.

But the Bahrain weekend heralded arguably the biggest news of Alonso’s season: that he would be entering the Indianapolis 500. The difficulties with Honda meant McLaren was happy to appease the Spaniard, giving him the chance to put in a stunning debut display at the Brickyard where he led early on before retiring with – guess what – an engine failure.

Things began to pick up from then on. Honda did make great strides late in the season, while the strength of the McLaren MCL32 chassis was undeniable. In the Hungarian Grand Prix where engine power meant little, Alonso was able to win the midfield fight and finish a remarkable sixth.

McLaren rose towards the front of the midfield by the end of the season, but it was far too late to save the Honda partnership. The decision to switch to Renault power for 2018 did help ensure Alonso would stick around, though, as he signed a new multi-year contract.

Alonso proved yet again in 2017 he remains one of the most gifted racers to have graced F1 in modern times – but now over a decade has passed since his last title. Will the Renault switch for 2018 help deliver that elusive third crown? Or do the problems run deeper than just Honda?

Season High: Taking P6 in Hungary at the front of the midfield.

Season Low: Failing to even make the grid in Russia after an engine failure.

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.