Binder's brave gamble secures remarkable Austrian GP win

By Sports Desk August 15, 2021

Brad Binder claimed a remarkable victory in a chaotic Austrian Grand Prix, nursing his bike to the finish on slick tyres in pouring rain as changeable conditions wreaked havoc at the Red Bull Ring.

Jorge Martin had won from pole at the same circuit last time out to claim victory in the Styrian Grand Prix and he started from the front of the grid again, the rookie playing his part in an incredible race that saw Binder prevail as his gamble to stay on dry tyres paid off.

It looked as if Francesco Bagnaia was set for an enthralling duel with Marc Marquez for the win in the closing laps, but the rain that had threatened throughout the race finally arrived and instantly shuffled the pack.

A downpour prompted the top six to dive into the pits for a bike swap with four laps remaining yet, while they all switched to a wet set-up, Binder took the risk of staying out.

The Red Bull KTM rider succeeded in keeping his bike upright to triumph for his team at their home circuit, his first win since the Czech Republic last year.

Behind him, Bagnaia eventually surged through the field to take second, running out of time to pass Binder, while Martin also profited from his decision to swap bikes by claiming third and his second successive podium.

Marquez, by contrast, crashed after his trip to the pits to end his hopes of victory, while championship leader Fabio Quartararo finished down in seventh for Yamaha.

Quartararo's lead at the top of the championship, which was 40 points at the start of the race, is now up to 47, with Johann Zarco losing ground as the Ducati rider crashed out at turn 9 before the late drama.

With seven races remaining, Quartararo is the favourite to dethrone Joan Mir, but Sunday's race belonged to Binder after his brave and ultimately brilliant gamble.

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    Fabio Quartararo is "living the dream" after becoming the first Frenchman to win the MotoGP title following an eventful Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

    The 22-year-old, who is competing in just his third season, was crowned 2021 world champion after closest challenger Francesco Bagnaia crashed out of Sunday's race.

    Bagnaia started from pole and was leading with five laps to go, only to come off his bike and effectively end his chances of catching Quartararo in the drivers' standings with two grands prix remaining.

    Yamaha rider Quartararo still had to see out the race to pick up the three points needed to seal top spot and did that with a fourth-placed finish in Italy.

    Quartararo's triumph, which ends Yamaha's six-year wait for a title, was achieved the hard way as he started the race in 15th after his worst ever qualifying session on Saturday.

    He gradually made his way through the field after a slow start that saw him drop two more places, yet he was still fifth when Bagnaia crashed.

    The Frenchman said on the eve of the race he expected the title battle to continue into the Grande Premio do Algarve next month and he felt the pressure at the start line.

    "It was tough for me because I made a really bad start and I never experienced a MotoGP start at that far back," he said. 

    "I think our front tyre pressure goes so much up [in a pack]. When I braked, I had a lot of moments almost crashing, so to be close to the podium was amazing.

    "It was a new experience, and also with the pressure of the championship I was feeling really bad this morning.

    "Let's say I had pain in the belly, it is the first time that I found it difficult to eat before the race, so it was a big day and we managed to be world champion.

    "After this I think the weight of trying to be world champion, from now, will totally lose the pressure and I can enjoy the two last races."

    Bagnaia had just stretched away from eventual race winner Marc Marquez when he crashed and cut a desolate figure at the end of the race.

    The Italian, who was one of the first to congratulate Quartararo, denied losing focus with the winning line in sight and also backed the call to use hard front tyres.

    That was a decision that also cost Ducati team-mate Jack Miller, who crashed early on at the same corner as Bagnaia.

    "Medium for me was worse than soft; soft was already on the limit yesterday and this morning, so the hard was the correct choice," Bagnaia said.

    "The only thing is with the hard you just need to push every single lap like hell, to let the tyre be hot.

    "As for the crash, that was not because I lost concentration. I was pushing – it was winning or gravel, and I tried all to achieve this win.

    "I'm happy about my performance. Of course I'm a bit frustrated about the result because I think we were deserving of more.

    "But we just try to be always more competitive, and for next year we are for sure in a good way."

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    Yamaha rider Quartararo had to outscore Bagnaia by three points in Sunday's race to bring an end to the title battle with two races to go, but a career-worst finish of 15th in qualifying meant the Frenchman had plenty of work to do.

    The 22-year-old gradually climbed the field after a slow start that saw him drop two more places, yet he was still fifth, well off leader Bagnaia, with five laps to go in Italy.

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    It is a second successive triumph for Marquez on the back of his victory at the Grand Prix of the Americas.

    Bagnaia's Ducati team-mate Jack Miller, who started in second, had earlier crashed out in a drama-filled race, while Valentino Rossi battled to 10th in his final race on home soil.

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    Max Verstappen ended Mercedes' run of six consecutive poles at the United States Grand Prix on Saturday as Lewis Hamilton repeatedly described his runs in Texas as a "struggle" but the rivals are geared up for another head-to-head showdown Sunday. 

    Verstappen, Hamilton and Sergio Perez each held pole position at various points in qualifying before the Red Bull star emerged on top. 

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    "I’m of course happy with the performance we’ve had today, let’s find out tomorrow in the race – again, it’s a different story and then of course we’ll move on again to the next race and that again can be a different story because you can maybe look like favourites going into the weekend but you still need to pay attention to every single detail, to try and make it work.

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    "It was definitely a difficult session," Hamilton said. "I would say for us since P1 it’s been a little bit tougher, we have been making lots of changes to try to improve the car.

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