British driver Abbi Pulling has laid down an emphatic marker after securing two pole positions on the inaugural weekend of the all-female F1 Academy series at Austria’s Red Bull Ring.

The new single-seater championship features a 15-woman grid from 10 countries competing for five professional teams over seven rounds, each with three races – the second in a semi-reverse grid format.

Lincolnshire’s Pulling, 20, racing for Rodin Carlin, topped both of Friday’s qualifying sessions. The Alpine academy driver was also a standout in W Series, where she finished fourth in her first full season.

While it is easy to draw comparisons between W Series – on hiatus since financial difficulties forced organisers to curtail the 2022 season – and the F1 Academy, Pulling’s fellow W Series alumna Bianca Bustamante, 18, marked several significant differences.

All of the teams with F1 Academy entries – which also include Campos Racing, PREMA, MP Motorsport and ART Grand Prix – have well-established experience elsewhere in F2 and F3, desired destinations for Academy drivers.

That is massive for PREMA’s Bustamante, who explained: “One of the greatest things about it is you get to work with such professional teams. And I think that makes the most difference.

“I’ve only started to work with PREMA for about two to three months and I’ve learned so much.

“This opportunity would have never come about if it weren’t for the Academy. To be able to work with such a professional team, to learn with the best drivers and to get the track time.

“It makes the most difference, because now we learn all the good habits. We learn what it’s like to be at the top of the sport and competing with the best teams, the best drivers, overall the best bits.”

F1 Academy’s triple-race weekends also allow for considerably more track time which was a long-standing request from W Series drivers who competed in just one per round.

The Academy season’s venues include grand prix tracks like the Netherlands’ Zandvoort and Italy’s Monza, designed to prepare drivers for career next steps.

The team element also differs in facilitating more consistent relationships with engineers and other key personnel, while W Series rotated engineers of varying experience as part of its own development mission.

Bustamante said: “To have that consistency right from the beginning in your junior years is one of the most important things.”

Organisers of the development-focused competition hope it will provide a critical stepping-stone between karting and other junior categories to F1 feeder series like F3, with the long-term goal of one day seeing a woman back in F1.

Pulling and Philippines-born Bustamante are among the many female drivers who have faced considerable challenges funding their careers, an issue F1 hopes to mitigate by subsidising each car – a T421 Chassis developed specifically for the Academy – with 150,000 euros (£131,600).

Drivers are expected to cover the same amount, while teams provide the rest of the budget.

The series faced early criticism after it was revealed races would not be broadcast live, but instead delivered later in the form of highlights packages, complemented by what organisers promised would be extensive live content on social media.

But the PA news agency understands there are ambitions for future live broadcasts, with the Academy set to join select F1 grands prix as part of next season’s support series.

Having the weight of the increasingly-recognisable F1 brand behind the new all-female venture is also an unprecedented step for the sport, one the drivers feel is significant.

“It makes a huge difference,” added Bustamante. “To have F1’s support means a big change to the sport. We went from not having many female drivers to having our own series.

“F1 has given us that exposure. They’ve allowed us to have a platform where we can expose our vision, our aspirations, and to have a voice.”

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc put a brake on Red Bull’s dominant streak by securing a surprise pole position for Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Formula One bosses have tinkered with the format in Baku by introducing two qualifying sessions.

Friday’s result decides the order for Sunday’s Grand Prix, while a second shorter qualifying session on Saturday determines the grid for a 17-lap dash – the first of six sprint events this season – later in the day.

The sport’s chiefs hope the revamp will enliven the weekend, and Leclerc’s qualifying triumph for Sunday’s main event marks the first non-Red Bull pole of the season.

Max Verstappen, who has won two of the opening three rounds to establish a 15-point championship lead, will line up alongside Leclerc, with Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez – the only other man to stand on the top step of the podium in 2023 – third.

Lewis Hamilton qualified fifth, a second back from Leclerc. Mercedes team-mate George Russell was eliminated in Q2 and will start 11th on Sunday.

By his own admission, Leclerc’s start to the season has been a “disaster”. He broke down in Bahrain, and then finished only seventh in Saudi Arabia following an engine penalty. Last time out in Australia he failed to complete a single lap after a collision with Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll.

He then arrived on the Caspian Sea amid a report in Italy that he is already plotting his Ferrari exit with a move to Mercedes as Hamilton’s replacement.

But after claiming his third pole in a row on Baku’s streets, the 25-year-old deliberately pointed to the Prancing Horse on his Ferrari overalls.

“The whole team needed this result,” he said. “It is part of our job, for any team in Formula One, to deal with rumours and pressure.

“But it is obviously sometimes a bit more difficult to perform under those circumstances.

“I did not expect it. We came into the weekend thinking it would be a great result if we are in front of the Aston Martins and the Mercedes, and we find ourself on pole.

“We know we are behind on race pace but our job is to maximise the points for later in the season if we are then strong enough to go and get the wins.”

Over at Mercedes, Hamilton might have finished second in Melbourne, but the seven-time world champion was off the pace here.

Hamilton snuck through to Q3, finishing just 0.004 sec ahead of the knocked-out Russell, and then never threatened to challenge the Ferraris and Red Bulls.

“We are trying as hard as we can,” said the 38-year-old. “It’s just getting into a rhythm is not easy on this track.

“We can’t make changes to the car overnight. This is the pace we have. It’s not the position we want as a team. We exist to win. But everyone has that winning mindset.

“We haven’t had an upgrade this weekend but we’re working towards one which will hopefully put us a bit closer to the battle.”

Leclerc’s team-mate Carlos Sainz will start fourth, two spots ahead of Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, with Lando Norris seventh for McLaren.

Q1 was delayed by 28 minutes after Nyck de Vries and Pierre Gasly both crashed out.

De Vries went in too hot on his brakes at the third corner, missing the apex and slamming into the wall. Out came the red flag, and a 17-minute barrier repair job followed as De Vries’ written-off AlphaTauri was winched away.

The running had restarted for less than two minutes before the red flags were deployed for a second time. Turn 3 claimed another victim as Gasly thudded into the wall and came to a halt.

“I couldn’t stop the car,” said the Frenchman, who missed the majority of practice when his Alpine caught fire. The two men will start Sunday’s 51-lap Grand Prix from the back of the pack.

Formula One’s new all-female F1 Academy series has sparked controversy ahead of this weekend’s inaugural races after it was revealed they will not be broadcast live.

When it was announced in November, the seven-round, 21-race competition – which opens with three races at Austria’s Red Bull Ring on Saturday – was billed by organisers as having “intentions…to ensure aspiring female drivers have the best opportunities to reach their potential” with the eventual goal of seeing a woman back in F1.

Some, recalling the adage “if you can see it you can be it”, have pointed out the irony of there being no live or full-race footage for a series designed to raise the profile of female drivers and inspire the next generation – with others even suggesting it could be a worrying indicator of F1’s genuine commitment to its stated ambitions.

Females in Motorsport, a volunteer-run collective working to promote women across the sport, were among the critics on social media, tweeting: “We’re deeply disappointed that #F1Academy won’t be streamed live. This series is meant to inspire girls and women around the world and provide a platform for the 15 drivers on the grid.

“So many F4 championships have live streams but an F1-owned entity won’t. How are we meant to inspire the next generation if we can’t even properly follow the action?”

Academy driver Bianca Bustamante, 18, was singled out by F1 driver Esteban Ocon after she recently spent time at his training centre, with the Frenchman describing her in a video uploaded by the Filipina as having “a gift right away… she immediately managed to impress me.”

Bustamante understands why fans might feel let down by the coverage, but insists the initial lack of footage was a welcome and deliberate move designed to alleviate pressure as the young drivers – the series cut-off is 25, with several well below that age limit – adjust to what for many is already a huge step up in their careers.

She said: “In motorsport you always have to perform in the spotlight, and it’s always been so tough. For a lot of drivers to perform under pressure and to have this sort of worry gone and just focus on pure driving is what makes it so important. Now we don’t have to worry about anything else, we just focus on performance, and the minute you have that secured you can shine in the spotlight.”

PREMA’s Bustamante, one of 15 drivers across the five-team Academy grid, is one of several defectors from W Series, the all-female single-seater series that saw its third season curtailed due to financial issues last year.

W Series – also previously on the F1 support bill – had secured a multi-year broadcast deal with Sky Sports that saw it attract a peak UK TV audience of one million viewers to its Silverstone race in 2022.

In contrast, F1 Academy will release a 15-minute round-by-round highlights programme to rights-holding broadcasters the Wednesday following a race weekend, which will also be available on F1-controlled channels.

Additionally, a race highlights video will be made available across several F1 channels on a Monday following the race weekend, while competition organisers have also promised extensive live coverage on social media.

The PA news agency – which has contacted F1 Academy for comment – understands there are ambitions to live broadcast the season finale, taking place in support of the F1 Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas, with a target for more next season when the Academy will be on the support bill for a select number of F1 Grands Prix.

Asked if this year’s plan will be sufficient in recruiting girls to her sport, Bustamante pointed to the Academy’s driver development-first philosophy, saying: “For us to be the role models that these girls can look up to we have to perform at our best. They’re prioritising our performance, our mental health and focus on the track.

“For us to inspire the next generation, we ourselves have to believe it. We have to believe in ourselves first, and that’s what they’re doing.”

Max Verstappen edged out Charles Leclerc to finish fastest in the sole practice session at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Formula One bosses have changed the weekend format in Baku, with the introduction of two qualifying sessions – one to decide the order for Sunday’s grand prix, and the other determining the starting grid for Saturday’s sprint race, the first of six sprint events this season.

Practice has been slashed from three hours to just one, ahead of qualifying for Sunday’s main event at 5pm local time (2pm UK) on Friday.

The reduction in practice is designed to create greater jeopardy with the teams unable to gather as much data as they would like.

And the one-hour running on Friday was suspended for 13 minutes after Pierre Gasly’s Alpine caught fire with the Frenchman leaping out of his smoky machine at Turn 12.

In an incident-packed session, Yuki Tsunoda limped back to the pits on three wheels after he banged the wall, while Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz also brushed the armco at the tight and twisty street circuit on the Caspian Sea.

Double world champion Verstappen has won two of the opening three rounds to establish a 15-point lead over Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez.

On Friday, the Dutch driver pipped Leclerc to top spot by just 0.037 seconds. Perez finished third, a tenth down on his Red Bull team-mate, while Sainz recovered from his brush with the barrier to take fourth.

Lando Norris provided some encouragement for McLaren to finish fifth, eight tenths down on Verstappen.

But Lewis Hamilton could manage only 11th for Mercedes, 1.5 sec back off the pace with team-mate George Russell also struggling, taking the chequered flag 17th of the 20 runners.

Elsewhere, Nyck de Vries finished sixth in his AlphaTauri ahead of the Aston Martin duo of Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso.

Charles Leclerc has brushed off reports suggesting he will replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes, reaffirming his commitment to Ferrari.

The Monegasque driver is in his fifth season with the Italian constructor and is looking for a first podium of the 2023 season after a muted start.

But amid lingering speculation over the future of seven-time world champion Hamilton at Mercedes, Leclerc has been linked with replacing the Briton.

Ahead of this weekend's Azerbaijan Grand Prix, however, Leclerc denied reports he is set to swap teams, though he did not explicitly rule out a future move.

"No, not yet," he said. "Not for the moment. For now, I am fully focused on the project I am in today, which is Ferrari and I fully trust and am confident for the future.

"Then we will see, but I am fully confident for the project of Ferrari. I'm fully committed to Ferrari and I love Ferrari.

"It has always been a dream for me to be in this team and my main priority is to win a world championship with this team. So it's not something in my mind."

Hamilton, who picked up a first podium of the year at the Australian Grand Prix, sees his contract expire with Mercedes at the end of the current season.

Speculation over Leclerc succeeding him has had no impact on his own negotiations though, with Hamilton stressing his own commitment to the Silver Arrows.

"I think maybe some of the drivers all have different relationships with different bosses and stuff," Hamilton said. "I like where I am.

"I love my team, and I'm grateful for the journey we've been on and what we're working on moving forwards."

Max Verstappen believes the approach of the leading drivers in Formula One will not change with the new sprint format, which debuts this weekend in Azerbaijan.

The new approach will see qualifying for Sunday's race take place on Friday, with Saturday seeing qualifying for the sprint followed by the short-form race itself.

Previously, qualifying would set the order for the sprint, which in turn would decide the line-up for the grid in Sunday's main race.

The idea is to encourage drivers to take more risks in the sprint, though Verstappen is not sure that will be the outcome.

"Maybe some people who are outside the points try to get a point. But once you are upfront, it's not making a massive difference," he told Sky Sports.

"I don't see it being a lot different for us than in the previous sprint weekends. There will be a little bit more chaos around because of the extra qualifying. This track is always quite chaotic, so this will make it a little bit more chaotic.

"From my side, I don't think it will change a lot. If you're first, second, third, you're quite happy in that position to just get the points, get it over with and focus on the race."

Verstappen has regularly been a vocal critic against changing the format of Formula One but admits he will have to cope with the new changes.

"You have to be ok with it. I love racing in general but I do feel like you don't have to touch anything that is great and I always thought that Sunday was great," he added.

"Of course, I understand selling more tickets on the Friday and Saturday, make every day worth fighting for, but when you're doing 24 or 25 race weekends, I think a good option would be to shorten it a bit anyway.

"Some people love racing, they will do it forever, but it also needs to be a healthy option as well. At one point, you start questioning that. Then when you add in these sprint weekends, it's even more busy."

While Verstappen made his concerns clear, McLaren's Lando Norris welcomed the new changes and believes the format is much better than before.

"There's still the budget cap, you don't want to damage the car, you don't want to do anything silly. Especially us, where we're wanting to improve the car as much as possible, the least amount of damage we cause, the better," he said.

"But I'm excited. I think it's a better format, I prefer it compared to what we had before. There's more room and more opportunities for everyone.

"I like the fact you have two qualifying. I love the format of practice, then qualifying on the Friday. The pressure is definitely higher, but it's enjoyable."

Ralf Schumacher has told Max Verstappen to either leave Formula 1 or accept the new Sprint Race weekend format, which will debut at the upcoming Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The 'Sprint Shootout' gets introduced this weekend and will set the grid for Saturday's Sprint Race, which means the grid for Sunday's Grand Prix is now determined by Friday's qualifying. 

It leaves just one free practice session in Baku with FP2 and 3 being replaced, and is the first of six Sprint Race weekends in 2023 after only hosting three in 2021 and 2022.

This comes after Verstappen issued a 'quit threat' if F1 continues to make race weekend changes, but Schumacher believes the championship will thrive either way. 

"The past, the present and the future have shown or will show that Formula 1 is much bigger than any individual," he told Sky Sports Germany.

"Bernie Ecclestone is also gone, and without him Formula 1 wouldn't exist - and now it’s more successful than ever.

"So Verstappen should either pack his things and leave, or just accept it as it is. I understand his attitude because there are a lot of risks.

"But still, he gets paid to do it. If he wants to go, then he has to go. Formula 1 will not perish, as much I love him."

Guenther Steiner has hailed the changes saying it is what fans want, and believes F1 could eventually keep adding the format to more race weekends. 

"I don't know if we will do it every race weekend," the Haas team principal told Reuters. "Maybe do a few more or maybe do half of the calendar - the F1 promoter will know what to do.

"At the moment, there is more demand for races [than slots available] so how can you get more races in, more competition, more racing if we cannot do more than 24 events? So just make the event double count."

Will Baku finally have a repeat winner?

In six previous races at Baku, there has been a different winner each time. Nico Rosberg won its inaugural Grand Prix in 2016, before Daniel Ricciardo, Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Sergio Perez and defending winner Verstappen all stood on the top step.

With two of that six no longer in F1 and Bottas now in an Alfa Romeo, chances are only three of them are in with a shot of victory. However, given Red Bull have dominated the opening three races to this season, they will be odds-on favourite to win again on Sunday.

To many, the battle will be between Perez and Verstappen with the double world champion currently 15 points ahead of his team-mate in the standings. If Red Bull wins again, then that will extend Hamilton’s winless run to 27 - his worst in F1 - after Mercedes have struggled since the start of 2022.

However, Fernando Alonso has stood on the podium in each race this season. Therefore, should Red Bull encounter any problems then maybe the Aston Martin driver will extend Baku's record. 

Charles Leclerc faces worst ever start to F1 season

Charles Leclerc's retirement in Australia means he is the first Ferrari driver since Felipe Massa in 2009 to have two DNFs in the opening three races of a season. For the other round, Saudi Arabia, he only finished seventh which leaves Leclerc 10th in the championship on six points.

It is a stark contrast to this time 12 months ago, where the Ferrari driver was leading the championship by 34 points after winning two of the opening three races. Should he fail to score a point in Baku then that will make it Leclerc's worst start to an F1 season, despite driving for Alfa Romeo in his debut year.

Championship Standings


Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 69Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 54Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) 45Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 38Carlos Sainz Jr (Ferrari) 20


Red Bull 123Aston Martin 65Mercedes 56Ferrari 26McLaren 12 

Marc Marquez will miss his home MotoGP race after it was confirmed the eight-time world champion will sit out the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend.

The Respol Honda man underwent surgery last month on a right hand fracture, with his recovery keeping him out of both the Argentine Grand Prix and Grand Prix of the Americas.

There had been some hope the Spaniard could return in Jerez, but the decision has now been made to focus on next month's French Grand Prix.

"Yesterday, we did another CT scan, and it has been confirmed that, despite the fact that the injury is progressing favourably, the bone has not yet finished healing and racing in Jerez was risky," Marquez said on Wednesday.

"Together with the medical team, we decided not to take any risks, to wait two more weeks and return in Le Mans.

"I am very sorry to miss the Spanish Grand Prix because it is always special, because of the atmosphere, racing at home and above all, seeing and enjoying the fans.

"I will continue with the rehabilitation and work to be back as soon as possible. Thank you for your messages of support!"

Iker Lecuona will stand in for Marquez this weekend.

James Allison has returned to the role of technical director in a Mercedes leadership reshuffle.

Allison replaces Mike Elliott, who will remain with the Formula One team as chief technical officer.

Elliott had taken over as technical director in 2021, when Alisson switched to become chief technical offer combined with other work such as being part of the INEOS Britannia America's Cup team.

With Red Bull having replaced Mercedes as the dominant force in F1 following regulation changes, the Silver Arrows are striving to turn their fortunes around as they sit third in the early-season constructor standings.

An off-track change was confirmed by the team on Friday, with Alisson and Eliott switching jobs once again.

"Mike has led a review of our technical organisation to ensure we have the right structure to deliver sustainable success in the future," said a Mercedes spokesperson.

"We are focused on building the best racing car – and building the best team to develop that car, with everybody playing to their greatest strengths in the organisation."

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff told Autosport: "This was very much driven by Mike Elliott owning the process. So, we have reversed the roles.

"Mike has moved up to CTO, as he has a brilliant switched-on scientific mind. And James Allison has returned to his technical director position, reporting into Mike.

"What Mike's assessment was, and the introspection is really admirable, is that with James we have a gladiator on the field and the troops are going to go through the fire for him and with him.

"Mike came to the conclusion that the way he approaches things, his skill set, is best utilised in developing the organisation going forward: from technical capabilities to human capabilities and putting together the structure that can be successful for many years to come."

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner expects the team's Formula One rivals to close the gap this season.

A superb start to their title defence has already seen Red Bull open a 58-point lead in the constructors' championship over closest competitors Aston Martin.

However, due to the "cultural change" within F1 in recent seasons, referencing the budget cap, Horner believes his team will be unable to maintain their advantage.

As defending champions, Red Bull were allocated the least time in the wind tunnel for this season, with their time reduced further by penalties issued by the FIA for breaching the cap in the 2021 season.

For that reason, Horner is predicting Red Bull's rivals will be hot on their heels later in the season.

"I think it will be very tough for us to develop this car, because when you look at the amount of percentage time less we have compared to some of our rivals, it's significant," he said, quoted on the F1 website.

"But it is what it is. We just have to do the best we can with what we've got, be efficient, effective, and selective in what we choose to develop, and how we apportion our time.

"It's been a total cultural change over the last couple of years. It's a new challenge in Formula 1, how you apply your resources. It used to be a sprint in terms of developing a car as quickly as you could with whatever budget you can rustle up.

"Now it's a question of how and where do you apply your resources, and of course there are so many variables like crash damage, accident damage in there that can have a massive effect on your potential to develop. It's going to be interesting to see how it pans out this year."

Ferrari have lost their appeal to the FIA over a time penalty handed to Carlos Sainz at the Australian Grand Prix.

Sainz was punished following a collision with Fernando Alonso during the race on April 2.

He was demoted from fourth to 12th place after making contact with Alonso's Aston Martin in a chaotic penultimate-lap standing restart.

There were another two crashes prior to a red flag being waved for a third time in Melbourne, where Red Bull's Max Verstappen triumphed.

Ferrari appealed the decision, but on Tuesday it was confirmed the Italian team had been unsuccessful.

"There is no significant and relevant new element that was unavailable to the parties seeking the review at the time of the decision concerned. The Petition is therefore dismissed," an FIA statement read after a hearing on Tuesday.

"We considered the fact that this collision took place at the first corner on the first lap of the restart, when, by convention, the stewards would typically take a more lenient view of incidents.

"However, we decided that notwithstanding that it was the equivalent of a first lap incident, we considered that there was sufficient gap for SAI to take steps to avoid the collision and failed to do so. We therefore imposed a five-second time penalty."

Ferrari said they were "naturally disappointed" with the decision, adding they felt "that we had provided sufficient significant new elements for the FIA to re-examine the decision especially in the context of the particular conditions and multiple incidents that occurred during the final restart."

Their statement concluded: "We are however respectful of the process and of the FIA decision. We are now looking forward to entering broader discussions with the FIA, Formula One, and all the teams, with the aim of further improving the policing of our sport, in order to ensure the highest level of fairness and consistency that our sport deserves.

Formula One is working "very hard" to bring a race back to Africa, F1 president Stefano Domenicali revealed.

The continent last held an F1 event in 1993 at South Africa's Kyalami circuit, a venue widely touted as the favourite to play host if the series returns to Africa, and there is a growing desire for that to happen.

Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton is among those to call for an African Grand Prix, while critics point out that Africa is the only continent, Antarctica excluded, not to hold a race.

F1's plan is to add Africa to the schedule, however, with Domenicali revealing there is plenty of work going on behind the scenes.

"100 per cent, Africa is still a continent that we are working very hard," he told Sky Sports. "As I always said, we need to find the right partners, the right middle-term plan.

"What I want to avoid is that we go there one year and then forget it. We are working, trying to find a solution for the best of the sport, for the best of the country."

F1's rise in popularity has increased the desire from more locations to hold a race, with big-money reportedly being offered from America and the Far East, though that is not a decisive factor in the eyes of Domenicali.

Neither is the history of venues, with the focus instead on the long-term development of F1.

"Today, the money is huge, but we need to protect the quality of the events and the sport," he added.

"When 'historical' is only connected to looking behind, that is a problem. When 'historical' is a value, if you are focused on developing the sport for the future, it's a great value.

"That's our duty - to make sure that, for example Monza, it's an incredible place but they need to make sure [they invest in] the future infrastructure, in services for the fans."

After an action-packed race at MotoGP's Grand Prix of the Americas it was Alex Rins emerging with a drought-breaking victory for LCR Honda.

Rins, who qualified second and finished second in Saturday's sprint race around the Circuit of the Americas, was the beneficiary after pole-winner Francesco Bagnaia crashed out for the second race in a row, this time while leading with 13 laps remaining.

Bagnaia, who could have taken over as the championship leader if he went all the way, was one of nine riders to not complete the race. 

Alex Marquez, Aleix Espargaro and Jorge Martin all went down on the first lap, before Jack Miller went down with 14 laps to go while in a podium position, and he was followed with an early finish by Raul Fernandez (14 to go), Bagnaia (13), Joan Mir (12), Takaaki Nakagami (nine) and Stefan Bradl (two).

The carnage left Rins as the leader for the final 12 laps, and he held his nerve the rest of the way, coming home to deliver LCR Honda's first race victory since Argentina back in 2018. It is the Spaniard's fifth MotoGP win, and his first since switching teams after spending the past six seasons with Team Suzuki Ecstar.

It was also the first win for a Honda bike in 539 days in what has been a dominant stretch by the Ducatis, as no Honda rider finished better than Marc Marquez's 13th in the 2022 season standings.

With the result, Rins catapulted himself up to third in the standings after a 34-point week in Texas, while championship leader Marco Bezzecchi extended his gap at the top to 11 points with his safe sixth-place outcome.

Grid Classification

1. Alex Rins (Honda) 41:14.649

2. Luca Marini (Ducati) +3.498 seconds

3. Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) +4.936

4. Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) +8.318

5. Miguel Oliveira (Aprilia) +9.989

6. Marco Bezzecchi (Ducati) +12.049

7. Johann Zarco (Ducati) +12.242

8. Franco Morbidelli (Yamaha) +20.399

9. Fabio Di Giannantonio (Ducati) +27.981

10. Augusto Fernandez (KTM) +28.217

Championship Standings

1. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46) 64

2. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) 53

3. Alex Rins (LCR Honda) 47

4. Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) 45

5. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) 44


1. Mooney VR46 102

2. Pramac Racing 73

3. Aprilia 63

4. Yamaha 63

5. Ducati 58

Reigning world champion Francesco Bagnaia labeled Saturday's display as one of his best in MotoGP after setting a new lap record in qualifying and winning the Grand Prix of the Americas Sprint.

Ducati's Bagnaia claimed pole for Sunday's race at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin with a new course lap record, edging Honda's Alex Lins by 0.160 seconds.

Bagnaia backed that up with the maximum 12 points from the Sprint where he won by 2.545 seconds from Lins, moving within one point of championship leader Marco Bezzecchi in the early season standings.

"It was one of the best days I ever had in MotoGP considering the performance we had during the whole day," Bagnaia said.

"My feeling with the bike is growing and in this track, for the first time I’m feeling great. This morning with used tyres I was feeling okay, so already I understood where to improve.

"But today for the race it was very difficult because the conditions were very hot and it was difficult to stop the bike.

"I was having a lot of locking and sincerely, it was a bit of a problem at the start of the race. But then I was used to it. Tomorrow will be a different story."

Bagnaia's impressive Saturday came after a disappointing performance in Argentina where he finished sixth in the Sprint and down in 16th in the Grand Prix.

"I started well, and tried to push, do my pace, to build up a gap," Bagnaia said. "Now I've got to focus on tomorrow, that's going to be harder."

Bezzecchi, who finished sixth in the COTA Sprint, will start the Grand Prix from fifth on the grid. Lins, who will start from second, was hopeful of an improvement on his Honda on Sunday.

"Let's see, for sure. We have a good bike," Lins said. "The electronic side was not working at 100 per cent, so let's see if tomorrow it works like this.

"The race today was a little fast, so we need to take a little bit more care of the tyres to arrive with a better performance in the end of the race."

Bagnaia smashed the COTA lap record with a flying final effort of 2.01.892, which was the first-ever sub 2.02.00 lap at the course.

That time came after Bagnaia had attempted to shake off Alex Marquez in his outlap after both recorded identical times.

But Marquez crashed on his final attempt, with Bagnaia released to record his 12th MotoGP pole in style. Gresini's Marquez will start from fourth, with Moorey VR46's Luca Marini in third.

Francesco Bagnaia made it a pole position and sprint race double as Ducati's reigning world champion set the standard ahead of Sunday's MotoGP Grand Prix of the Americas.

The 26-year-old Italian crashed at the Argentine Grand Prix last time out in wet conditions but rebounded strongly in Austin with a reminder of the form that brought him last year's title.

He was thoroughly dominant in the sprint, pocketing the 12 points on offer to the winner and moving just one point behind championship leader Marco Bezzecchi in the early season standings.

Honda's Alex Rins took nine points with second place, some 2.545 seconds behind the winner, while third went to Pramac Racing's Jorge Martin who rocketed through the field from 12th on the grid, with Aleix Espargaro taking fourth for Aprilia.

Espargaro had been running second at one stage, while Fabio Quartararo was also showing lively pace before crashing at the first corner with six laps remaining.

Brad Binder took fifth in the sprint, with Bezzecchi sixth as he conceded ground to Bagnaia in the championship, having been nine points ahead heading into this weekend after his maiden race win in Argentina.

Pole position earlier went to Bagnaia in a lap record of two minutes and 1.892 seconds, with Rins an impressive second, ahead of the Mooney VR46 of Luca Marini.

Marini's team-mate Bezzecchi could only take fifth on the grid, with Alex Marquez (Gresini) fourth and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) in sixth spot.

Grid classification

1. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) 2:01.892
2. Alex Rins (Honda) +0.160 seconds
3. Luca Marini (Mooney VR46) +0.289
4. Alex Marquez (Gresini) +0.350
5. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46) +0.376
6. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) +0.647
7. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) +0.857
8. Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) +0.990
9. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) +1.170
10. Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM) +1.192

Championship Standings


1. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46) 54
2. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) 53
3. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) 35
4. Alex Marquez (Gresini) 33
5. Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) 32


1. Mooney VR46 72
2. Pramac Racing 64
3. Ducati 53
4. Red Bull KTM 53
4. Aprilia 50

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