Lewis Hamilton was pleased with the "small step forwards" taken by Mercedes after setting the second-fastest time in practice ahead of the British Grand Prix.

The Briton was 0.163 seconds slower than pace-setter Carlos Sainz in FP2, while compatriot Lando Norris was third and championship leader Max Verstappen in fourth.

Hamilton has yet to win a race this season, but he offered plenty of promise heading into a big weekend on home soil at a packed Silverstone with his performance in practice.

However, the seven-time world champion offered a word of caution over the ongoing porpoising issue that has dominated recent races.

"It's bouncing still, quite a bit," he said. "Not necessarily on the straights but through the corners it's pretty harsh – not physically harsh but in the car on the tyres and everything.

"So we still have work to do but it feels like a small step forwards.

"Our long run pace isn't as good as the other guys but it's not miles off. We've definitely made an improvement. I'm sure overnight we can work and improve the car a bit more."

Hamilton may have endured a difficult campaign to date, lagging as he does 98 points behind leader Verstappen, but he boasts an impressive record on his home turf.

The 37-year-old has won the British Grand Prix eight times and could become the driver to have won the most races at a single Grand Prix with victory this weekend.

Mercedes, meanwhile, have recorded eight of the last nine wins at Silverstone, while also taking eight of the last nine poles.

McLaren driver Norris looks good value to challenge for a second podium of 2022 after a surprising rise up the timesheets, having finished 15th last time out in Canada.

"As good as it looked, it is still difficult to put things together and be consistent but I am happy," he said.

"The car seems to be in a decent place, at least a little better than we were expecting."

Friday was rather unimpressive for Red Bull's Verstappen, who has won six of the nine races this year, including five of the last six.

But the Dutchman – who is out to surpass Valtteri Bottas and equal Rubens Barrichello as the driver with the eighth-most podiums ever (68) – is confident of finding improvement.

"It's always a bit tricky, of course, after not driving in FP1 and then FP2 becomes a bit of guessing, let's say it like that," Verstappen said. 

"It was maybe not ideal, but also not a big issue. I think we know what we have to work on and that's what we'll try to do overnight. 

"But, again, tomorrow probably it's raining so you have again different kinds of conditions. This time probably was not amazing, but it was also not really bad."

Max Verstappen has stated Nelson Piquet is "not a racist" but condemned the Brazilian's "very offensive" slur towards Lewis Hamilton.

The former Formula One champion has faced backlash after an interview emerged following last season's British Grand Prix in which he was alleged to have used a racial slur in reference to Hamilton, prompting widespread criticism across the F1 paddock.

Verstappen has condemned the comments from Piquet, which he said were "very offensive", but he defended the character of the 69-year-old, who is the father of his partner Kelly.

"I've spent a bit of time with Nelson, and he's definitely not a racist, and he's actually a really nice and relaxed guy," he told reporters on Thursday.

"The statement he released, you can see the word in two ways, but I think it's still better not to use it.

"It's not only about that word, using offensive language to anyone, any colour, is not correct. That's to anyone in the world, not just to Lewis specifically.

"I think he realised it was probably not the correct word to use, and clearly it is not.

"It can be interpreted in two ways, and of course people pick up on the bad side and of course it gets really blown, I think, out of proportion.

"I know Nelson personally and people of course label him as a racist now, which I don't think he is, but I fully agree that you cannot use these words."

It has widely been reported F1 will now ban Piquet from the paddock, but Verstappen added he did not feel that would be the correct move.

"When you ban people, you are actually not helping the situation," he said. "You're not talking.

"You have to communicate. It's really important, because if you just ban, it's not helping what you're trying to enforce."

Lewis Hamilton has slammed Bernie Ecclestone's support of Russian President Vladimir Putin and declared he is "not with the times."

Ex-Formula One supremo Ecclestone stated during an interview with ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Thursday that he would "take a bullet" for “first-class person” Putin.

When it was put to Ecclestone that thousands of innocent people have been killed in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion, he replied “it wasn't intentional.”

The 91-year-old also said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky should have done more to stop the ongoing war.

Ecclestone’s comments come during a grim week for motorsport, with Nelson Piquet having been condemned for a racist comment made about Hamilton and Red Bull axing reserve driver Juri Vips for a racial slur he used in an online streaming session.

Ecclestone also declared seven-time F1 champion Hamilton should be "happy" that he received an apology from Piquet and ought to have "brushed aside" the Brazilian’s racist slur.

Hamilton responded by referencing Ecclestone and Piquet as "older voices", declaring they have "nothing positive" to contribute.

"We push for action. There needs to be some accountability. What is [the platforms'] goal? We don't need [these voices] anymore," he said during a news conference.

"To hear it from someone who ultimately believes in the war, the killing of millions of people? I can't believe it. They have nothing positive to contribute to where we want to go.

"I have always tried to take the higher road and be respectful. It ties back to - why do we give them a platform? They are not with the times. They are not willing to change. Microaggression in today's world is not healthy."

Sebastian Vettel was among those who spoke out in support of Hamilton in Thursday's media session, addressing the abuse that the British driver has faced throughout his career.

"I think it’s more than just the recent, it’s what he and his family has been through his entire life," he said.

"The abuse was wrong and it was great to see such a response from the F1 community on the matter and towards Lewis.

"There shouldn’t be any room for these kinds of comments. It doesn’t help when there are still these things out here and using inappropriate language. 

"It is important to talk about it because it won’t be gone overnight and we have a responsibility to try and address these issues.

"Kindness matters and people matter. It was bad to see what was going on."

Seven-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton believes the United States and the United Kingdom have "gone backwards" following a number of political decisions.

Last week, the Supreme Court in the US overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade case and removed the constitutional right to abortion – with individual states now able to make their own laws.

Meanwhile, the UK is still adjusting to its exit from the European Union and faces a cost-of-living crisis

Speaking ahead of this weekend's British Grand Prix, F1 superstar Hamilton condemned the state of affairs in both countries.

"America has gone backwards. Everything happening in the UK has gone backwards. People are struggling. We have to pull together," he told a news conference.

Hamilton had previously addressed the matter of abortion ahead of the inaugural Miami Grand Prix earlier this year, where he made his feelings on the matter clear.

"I love being in the States. But I can't ignore what's going on right now and what some in the government are trying to do to the women who live here," he said.

"Everyone should have the right to choose what they do with their bodies. We can't let that choice be taken away.”

Bernie Ecclestone has sparked outrage by declaring he would "take a bullet" for Vladimir Putin and saying Volodymyr Zelensky should have done more to stop the war in Ukraine.

Ex-Formula One supremo Ecclestone on Thursday described Russian president Putin as a "sensible" and "first-class person", who has made "mistakes" like "a lot of business people."

When it was put to Ecclestone in an interview on ITV's Good Morning Britain that Russia's invasion of Ukraine has resulted in thousands of innocent people being killed, Ecclestone replied that "It wasn't intentional."

The 91-year-old also stated that he had not spoken to his "friend" Putin since Russia started the invasion of Ukraine in February.

"I'd still take a bullet for him [Putin]. He's a first-class person." said Ecclestone.

"Unfortunately he is like a lot of business people, certainly like me, we make mistakes from time to time."

He added: "It wasn't intentional. Look at the times America has moved into different countries which has nothing to do with America. Actually in America it's their business, they like wars because they sell a lot of armour so it's good for them."

Ecclestone also claimed Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, ought to have made more of an effort to engage with Putin.

He said: "I mean, the other person in Ukraine, I mean his profession I understand, he used to be a comedian and it seems he wants to continue that profession because I think if he had thought about things he would have definitely made a big enough effort to speak to Mr Putin, who is a sensible person and would have listened to him and could have probably done something about it."

Ecclestone added: "I'm quite sure if Ukraine would have wanted to get out of it properly they could have done."

Asked about the Russian Grand Prix being removed from the calendar and Russian drivers from being banned, Ecclestone replied: "I'm not in the position now to have done anything about that.

"I'm not sure I would have stopped that, and I certainly now wouldn't, and I think it's wrong, to stop Russian athletes, including obviously drivers, in taking part in their sport.

"They didn't get involved in this in the first place. They shouldn't be punished."

The FIA has updated the Formula One sporting and technical regulations ahead of this weekend's race at Silverstone – including an amendment to the rules regarding power units. 

The 2022 season has seen several reliability failures by teams, including a number for title-fighting Ferrari, and action has been taken as a result.

Teams will now be able to swap power units under parc ferme conditions for newer versions that have been put into their pool – whereas any change of specification of a car component that is replaced in parc ferme between qualifying and the race previously resulted in a pit lane start.

The rules have also been revised to allow for teams to make temporary power unit repairs when necessary, which may allow them to avoid fitting replacement parts.

A number of early-season controversies have also been addressed, including rules regarding regulations for tyre testing being tweaked – with intrigue emerging after Ferrari ran two floors in testing ahead of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Deflection tests to check on the flexibility of rear wings and beam wings have been updated, and mirror rules have been altered to help improve visibility.

Fuel cooling issues pre-race, including those seen at Miami, have also been addressed, with teams allowed to cool fuel to 20 degrees Celsius at hotter races.

The unpopular change to media activities ahead of the season, which saw them moved to Friday, has now been reverted to Thursday afternoon following complaints from teams and drivers.

Formula 2 have expressed its disappointment at a decision from Hitech Grand Prix to allow Juri Vips to retain his seat for the remainder of the season.

The Estonian was axed by Red Bull following an investigation into alleged racist language used during an online gaming session, stripping him of his reserve driver status and a spot in the team's young driver programme.

However, Vips will retain his seat with Hitech Grand Prix ahead of this weekend's race at Silverstone with team principal Oliver Oakes stating he would give the 21-year-old a "chance to redeem himself".

"I have made the decision for Juri to keep his F2 seat with Hitech for the remainder of the season, a decision we have seriously debated," he said.

"Allowing him to complete his season with Hitech is an opportunity for him to demonstrate, through his actions, the type of person he is. 

"I have made it clear that I think the language used was totally unacceptable, but I choose to give him the chance to redeem himself.

"Hitech GP employs an inclusive workforce and has never condoned racism or offensive behaviour in any forms. 

"That said, if we live in a society where no one can make a mistake, then genuinely apologise, have the chance for redemption and learn from it – what does it say about society?"

The decision resulted in disappointment from F2, which admitted it was not a course of action it would have taken.

"Following the recent incident involving Juri Vips, F2 would like to reaffirm that the use of racist or discriminatory language cannot be tolerated in any environment," it said.

"Hitech Grand Prix's decision today is surprising and not one we would have taken. We will monitor the situation carefully with them to ensure that such behaviour is properly addressed."

Nelson Piquet has apologised to Lewis Hamilton for his "ill-thought-out" comments, although the three-time Formula One champion denied his words were racist.

Media outlets in Brazil have this week highlighted an interview conducted with Piquet following the 2021 British Grand Prix, with the 69-year-old alleged to have used racist language when assessing the collision between Hamilton and Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

Piquet's daughter, Kelly, is world champion Verstappen's partner.

Mercedes have come out in support of their man Hamilton – F1's only black driver – as have several rival teams and F1 itself, with the series reportedly set to ban Piquet from its paddock for life.

But the Brazilian, while apologising, has said his comments were mistranslated.

"I would like to clear up the stories circulating in the media about a comment I made in an interview last year," he said in a statement.

"What I said was ill-thought-out, and I make no defence for it, but I will clarify that the term used is one that has widely and historically been used colloquially in Brazilian Portuguese as a synonym for 'guy' or 'person' and was never intended to offend

"I would never use the word I have been accused of in some translations. I strongly condemn any suggestion that the word was used by me with the aim of belittling a driver because of his skin colour.

"I apologise wholeheartedly to anyone that was affected, including Lewis, who is an incredible driver, but the translation in some media that is now circulating on social media is not correct.

"Discrimination has no place in F1 or society, and I am happy to clarify my thoughts in that respect."

Hamilton has been active on his Twitter page since the reports emerged.

"It's more than language," he posted. "These archaic mindsets need to change and have no place in our sport.

"I've been surrounded by these attitudes and targeted my whole life. There has been plenty of time to learn. Time has come for action."

Charles Leclerc is confident Ferrari will be fighting for the win at Silverstone – as long as the team can avoid any further reliability woes.

Power unit issues have led to recent retirements in Spain and Azerbaijan, the last of which resulted in a back-of-the-grid start for the Canadian Grand Prix after taking a third unit of the season.

Those troubles, accompanied by a wrong strategy call in Monaco, have seen Max Verstappen and Red Bull take a commanding lead in both championships – with the defending champion winning four of the past five races.

Ferrari's potential is undeniable, with six pole positions out of nine, but only two have resulted in race wins and the last came in Australia almost three months ago.

In his career overall, Leclerc's 15 poles have returned just four wins for a 27 per cent winning percentage – the second lowest in F1 history among drivers who have won at least one race, behind only Jarno Trulli (25 per cent, one win from four pole positions). 

Despite a 49-point deficit in the driver's championship, third-placed Leclerc remains upbeat and believes reliability will be an issue for all teams to contend with this season.

"No, I'm not worried. I mean, it's a big gap but, but I'm just focusing on the job, and I'm confident that we can take that back," he told Motorsport.

"I think reliability seems to be a concern for everyone this season. And yeah, if we fix our reliability, the performance is there to come back. So already from Silverstone we'll try to get a few points back.

"I really like Silverstone. And hopefully we will be competitive enough to be starting on pole and finally win from pole."

Mercedes' hunting ground

Eight of the past nine British GPs have been won by Mercedes, with the only exception being Sebastian Vettel with Ferrari in 2018, and improvements shown in Canada will provide encouragement for the Silver Arrows.

Lewis Hamilton's second podium finish of the season in third was the highlight in Montreal, but George Russell's consistency continues to stand out, with the British driver finishing in the top five in all nine races in 2022.

A win for Hamilton would be the ninth of his career at Silverstone, setting a new record for the most wins in a single GP – overtaking his eight victories in Hungary and Michael Schumacher's eight wins in France.

Driver market

Away from the track itself, the F1 driver market is starting to heat up as teams outline their plans for the 2023 season, and there are a number on the grid who could be under threat of losing their seats.

Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel are both out of contract at the end of the season – although each could still extend – while Daniel Ricciardo has work to do to impress McLaren to retain his seat despite being tied down for a further year.

Nicholas Latifi at Williams and Mick Schumacher at Haas are also under pressure, with F2 champion and Alpine reserve Oscar Piastri expected to get a chance in 2023. Antonio Giovinazzi has been touted for a return to the grid, too.

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 175
2. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 129
3. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 126
4. George Russell (Mercedes) 111
5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 102

Constructors

1. Red Bull 304
2. Ferrari 228
3. Mercedes 188
4. McLaren 65
5. Alpine 57

Red Bull have terminated the contract of their test and reserve driver Juri Vips after he allegedly used racist language during an online gaming stream.

The Estonian, who races in Formula 2 for Hitech Grand Prix, was suspended last week following  incident broadcast live on Twitch.

On Tuesday, Red Bull announced that the 21-year-old had been sacked.

A statement from the Formula One team read: "Following its investigation into an online incident involving Juri Vips, Oracle Red Bull Racing has terminated Juri's contract as its test and reserve driver.

"The team do not condone any form of racism."

Vips is highly rated within the young driver ranks and was seen as a leading contender for a seat with AlphaTauri, but was leapfrogged in the pecking order by Yuki Tsunoda following a coronavirus-disrupted 2020 campaign.

He drove for Red Bull in the first practice session at last month's Spanish Grand Prix and was likely to get further opportunities this season due to F1 regulations that promote the use of young drivers.

The sacking of Vips follows condemnation from Formula One and Red Bull towards former driver Nelson Piquet, who allegedly used a racial slur towards Lewis Hamilton last year.

A racial slur allegedly used by Nelson Piquet towards Lewis Hamilton has been condemned in statements from Formula One and Mercedes, following significant backlash towards the former world champion.

Reports in Brazil have highlighted an interview conducted with Piquet following the 2021 British Grand Prix, where the 69-year-old allegedly used racist language when assessing the collision between Hamilton and Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

That collision was one of a number between the two title rivals last season and led Verstappen to retire from the race, with Hamilton going on to secure victory.

Footage alleges that Piquet used a racial slur towards seven-time world champion Hamilton, which has led both F1 and Mercedes to issue statements condemning the language – although both have faced social media backlash for not identifying Piquet.

The statement from F1 read: "Discriminatory or racist language is unacceptable in any form and has no part in society. Lewis is an incredible ambassador for our sport and deserves respect."

"His tireless efforts to increase diversity and inclusion are a lesson to many and something we are committed to at F1."

Mercedes stated: "We condemn in the strongest terms any use of racist or discriminatory language of any kind.

"Lewis has spearheaded our sport’s efforts to combat racism, and he is a true champion of diversity on and off track.

"Together, we share a vision for a diverse and inclusive motorsport, and this incident underlines the fundamental importance of continuing to strive for a brighter future."

Mercedes are "cautiously optimistic" of competing at Silverstone with a car that, according to their chief technical officer, is "definitely on the mend".

It has been a difficult Formula One season for Mercedes, who sit third in the constructors' standings, 116 points off pace-setters Red Bull.

While new boy George Russell has performed well and sits fourth in the Drivers' Championship with 111 points – 64 behind leader Max Verstappen – seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton is down in sixth.

Hamilton has struggled to adapt to Mercedes' new car and often been unable to hide his frustration with the vehicle's performance, though he did manage a third-place finish in Montreal last time out.

Third is the best Mercedes have achieved in any race in 2022, with Russell achieving it in Spain, Azerbaijan and Australia, and Hamilton clinching the final podium place in Bahrain as well as Canada.

Ahead of the British Grand Prix, Mercedes' CTO James Allison believes the team are finding a way to be competitive following two successive podium finishes.

He told Sky Sports: "Everyone in our factory doesn't dare say it, but we're cautiously optimistic of having a more competitive weekend than some of those we've had of late.

"I think some of the characteristics of this circuit will suit the car. We don't have a car capable of winning from the front yet. But I think as long as we can get the car tamed through Maggots Becketts and around the faster of the corners, then I think we have a decent chance of a competitive showing, and maybe if the Red Bulls stumble, who knows, but I'm hopeful of a better weekend."

When it was put to him that victory at Silverstone would be an emotional one, Allison quipped: "Absolutely, well I'd cry!

"It'd be a fantastic thing. I've just got my fingers crossed that we'll have a creditable showing with a car that is definitely on the mend."

Fabio Quartararo lamented a "rookie mistake" after twice crashing at the Dutch TT to see the 2022 MotoGP title race blown wide open again.

The Monster Energy Yamaha rider's lead over Aleix Espargaro at the top of the standings was cut from 34 points to 21 after failing to finish Sunday's race in Assen.

After a near blemish-free season up to this point, reigning world champion Quartararo uncharacteristically clattered into Espargaro early on when pushing for second place.

Both riders ended in the gravel, but whereas Espargaro was able to make up significant ground to finish fourth, Quartararo again came off his bike on lap 12.

He lost grip on his rear tyre and was sent flying over his handlebars in a nasty fall, with this his first MotoGP retirement since Valencia 2020.

Quartararo apologised to Espargaro immediately after the race, which was won by Francesco Bagnaia, and took full blame for the contentious incident.

"I made a rookie mistake. I wanted to push too much from the beginning," he told Canal+. "I apologise to Aprilia and to Aleix for putting him out of the track.

"It's with these mistakes that you learn for the future, but it was a really stupid mistake. We could very well have set a very good pace and fought for the win. 

"These are mistakes that you learn from for the future. I wanted to restart and try to score some points, but I saw that the bike was a problem. 

"I stopped, the team told me to restart in case of rain, but when I restarted, I could see that something was wrong.

"I tried, but I don't know [what happened]. We have to analyse the crash, but I lost the rear a bit abruptly, so we'll see what they say. I made a rookie mistake."

Despite seeing his lead cut, Quartararo still holds a healthy advantage at the top of the riders' standings heading into the five-week break.

Espargaro produced the ride of the day – and one of the best individual rides of the season – to recover from 15th after being sent off the track by his title rival.

The Aprilia rider overtook Jack Miller and Brad Binder on the final lap to finish just outside the podium places, but he could not make a serious dent in Quartararo's title lead. 

"I was very strong in that place, and Fabio knew it," Espargaro said of the early collision. "The reason Fabio did his movement is because his feeling with the bike is super-high. 

"We saw it also in Germany, corner one with [the overtake on Bagnaia]. He's not a dirty rider, but his confidence is that high.

"Today, it's not that he was arrogant. But because he felt super, a lot faster than the rest, he made a bad judgment.

"I knew this could happen. From this moment I said to myself – Fabio is almost perfect, he made no mistakes during the season, so if he makes one mistake you have to profit."

Ducati's poleman Bagnaia led from the start to move back to within 66 points of Quartararo with nine rounds to go.

The Italian, who is fourth in the championship, now has three wins and three retirements in his past six races.

Bagnaia never looked like relinquishing first place to Marco Bezzecchi, although he admitted to being "terrified" of a third DNF in a row when rain hit late on in the Netherlands.

"Looking at the gap with Bezzecchi, he was always catching," Bagnaia said. "I had to push again, I had to open this gap again to be smarter and more calm again later in the race.

"But then the rain came. When I saw the rain, I just slowed down a bit, but Bezzecchi was pushing again.

"So, it was very difficult. I was terrified to crash again, so the main thing was to finish the race. It wasn't easy, but I tried to be smart, I tried to not push over the limit."

Francesco Bagnaia reignited his 2022 MotoGP title hopes with victory at a dramatic Dutch TT, in which championship leader Fabio Quartararo failed to finish.

Ducati rider Bagnaia had crashed out in four of the previous 10 races this year, but he took full advantage of pole position on Sunday by comfortably holding on to first place.

Quartararo endured a rare off day in Assen, the Monster Energy Yamaha rider finishing outside the points after twice crashing to see his championship lead cut.

Bagnaia is now 66 points behind the Frenchman heading into the five-week break, while Aleix Espargaro is within 21 points of top spot after making an exceptional recovery.

The drama at Circuit Assen started at Turn 5 when Quartararo, in an attempt to take second place from Espargaro, collided with his rival in a hugely contentious moment.

Both riders ended in the gravel before rejoining. But while Espargaro brilliantly made up ground, Quartararo was left with too much to do and crashed for a second time.

The reigning world champion high-sided out of Turn 5 and landed awkwardly, bringing an end to his race and marking his first MotoGP retirement since Valencia in 2020.

The rain started to fall soon after, adding even more drama to a race that had it all, though ultimately Bagnaia saw things through by holding off Marco Bezzecchi.

Jack Miller, who served a long lap penalty, was not able to join his Ducati team-mate on the podium as he failed to catch Maverick Vinales – his first top-three finish for Aprilia.

Miller was then overtaken by Espargaro, who also moved in front of Brad Binder to climb from sixth to fourth in an exceptional final lap as the title race was blown wide open.

TOP 10

1. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) 
2. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46) +0.444s
3. Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) +1.209s
4. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) +2.585
5. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM) +2.721s
6. Jack Miller (Ducati) +3.045s
7. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) +4.340s
8. Joan Mir (Suzuki Ecstar) +8.185s
9. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM) +8.325s
10. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar) +8.956s

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Riders

1. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) 172
2. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) 151
3. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) 114
4. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) 106
5. Enea Bastianini (Gresini) 105

Teams

1. Aprilia Racing 213
2. Monster Energy Yamaha 197
3. Ducati 197
4. Pramac Racing 184
5. Red Bull KTM 164

Francesco Bagnaia reignited his 2022 MotoGP title hopes with victory at a dramatic Dutch Grand Prix, in which championship leader Fabio Quartararo failed to finish.

Ducati rider Bagnaia had crashed out in four of the previous 10 races this year, but he took full advantage of pole position on Sunday by comfortably holding on to first place.

Quartararo endured a rare off day in Assen, the Monster Energy Yamaha rider finishing outside the points after twice crashing to see his championship lead cut.

Bagnaia is now 66 points behind the Frenchman heading into the five-week break, while Aleix Espargaro is within 21 points of top spot after making an exceptional recovery.

The drama at Circuit Assen started at Turn 5 when Quartararo, in an attempt to take second place from Espargaro, collided with his rival in a hugely contentious moment.

Both riders ended in the gravel before rejoining. But while Espargaro brilliantly made up ground, Quartararo was left with too much to do and crashed for a second time.

The reigning world champion high-sided out of Turn 5 and landed awkwardly, bringing an end to his race and marking his first MotoGP retirement since Valencia in 2020.

The rain started to fall soon after, adding even more drama to a race that had it all, though ultimately Bagnaia saw things through by holding off Marco Bezzecchi.

It was not quite an all-Ducati podium as Jack Miller, who served a long lap penalty, could not catch Maverick Vinales as he claimed his first top-three finish for Aprilia.

Miller was then overtaken by Espargaro, who also moved in front of Brad Binder to climb from sixth to fourth in an exceptional final lap as the title race was blown wide open.

TOP 10

1. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) 
2. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46) +0.444s
3. Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) +1.209s
4. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) +2.585
5. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM) +2.721s
6. Jack Miller (Ducati) +3.045s
7. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) +4.340s
8. Joan Mir (Suzuki Ecstar) +8.185s
9. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM) +8.325s
10. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar) +8.956s

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Riders

1. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) 172
2. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) 151
3. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) 114
4. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) 106
5. Enea Bastianini (Gresini) 105

Teams

1. Aprilia Racing 213
2. Monster Energy Yamaha 197
3. Ducati 197
4. Pramac Racing 184
5. Red Bull KTM 164

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