Ferrari unveils its new Formula 1 car, the SF21

Ferrari Formula 1
Scuderia Ferrari, Twitter
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MARANELLO, Italy — Ferrari unveiled its new car online Wednesday, becoming the last of the 10 Formula 1 teams to present their 2021 editions.

The car, which is named SF21 for Scuderia Ferrari, has a new power unit. A bright green sponsor’s logo on the engine cover stands out on the otherwise red car.

“The color looks a little bit more dark compared to last year and there’s this other shade of red in the back of the car,” returning driver Charles Leclerc said, adding that the green “was a last-minute change.”

Leclerc and new teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. will drive the car for the first time during a filming day at the Bahrain circuit on Thursday. Official preseason testing starts on Friday in Bahrain, where the season opens on March 28.

Sainz Jr. said he and Leclerc will drive “only 10 laps more or less, each” on Thursday, “but at least we will get our first taste.

“Then on Friday we start to get serious and start to properly test the car and get ready for the season,” Sainz Jr. added.

Ferrari struggled last season with Leclerc finishing eighth and the departed Sebastian Vettel 13th in the drivers’ standings.

Leclerc got off to a strong start in 2020 with a second-place finish in the Grand Prix of Austria in the season opener in July. He finished behind Valtterri Bottas, who wound up second in the points. Leclerc’s only other podium came in the first of two races at Silverstone in August during Round 4.

Vettel scored only one podium in 2020. He was third in the Turkish Grand Prix in November. Teammate Leclerc finished fourth in that race.

Sainz had a similar season, scoring only one podium finish with his old team McLaren. He was second at Monza in September’s Grand Prix of Italy behind Pierre Gasly.

Ferrari was sixth in the Formula 1 constructors’ standings.

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.