Pol Espargaro will hope to be celebrating at the end of Sunday's British Grand Prix, yet the Spaniard already feels like a winner after surprising even himself by claiming pole position.

Espargaro had arrived at Silverstone after struggling in the previous two rounds of the MotoGP season in Austria, failing to score any points by recording successive 16th-place finishes.

However, the 30-year-old belied his recent lack of form with a stunning qualifying performance, securing his first pole for Repsol Honda as he squeezed out Francesco Bagnaia by just 0.022 seconds.

Jorge Martin initially appeared to have set a new fastest lap in the closing stages of the final session, only for his time to be wiped out after it was discovered he had cut the Vale chicane. He will instead start from fourth position.

Championship leader Fabio Quartararo will begin from third, but this was a memorable day for Espargaro as he looks to get back scoring points again, having not gone three in a row without collecting something since he was at KTM in 2018.

"Yeah, it's a little bit shocking after how tough Austria was, how we've been able to come back here," Espargaro said in his post-qualifying interview.

"It's difficult to believe, but there are different ways to take these bad moments – in a sad way, or in an angry way. We opted to take the second option.

"I tried to be every day a little bit better. I’ve been working so much, but unluckily the results were not coming.

"Here, everything is coming much easier. Sure, the track, the weather is cold, the extra grip we have in this track gives me the feelings, I have to apply my riding style and maybe to forget a little the problems we have in the pit box with the bike.

"Also, this place has been good to Honda in the past years, so let's enjoy today. Today this pole felt like a victory."

Quartararo admitted the choice of soft tyres had initially caused him some issues on Saturday, though he was happy enough after a switch helped him achieve his target in qualifying.

"Today I've been struggling so much with the soft tyre," the Frenchman, who is the only MotoGP rider to claim points in every race so far this season, told the media. "I was not feeling great on the bike, but with the medium tyre I was immediately feeling better.

"I was struggling so much in acceleration. The main goal was to be on the front row, and we will not touch anymore the soft tyre. I’m happy about my pace – and also the tyres."

Marc Marquez and Aleix Espargaro join Martin on the second row, while Valentino Rossi, who has finished on the podium in four of his five most recent appearances at the British GP, ended up in eighth, sandwiched between Jack Miller and Johann Zarco.

Joan Mir, meanwhile, has work to do from 11th place. The reigning world champion sits level with Bagnaia in second place in the standings on 134 points, 47 adrift of leader Quartararo.

Lando Norris has been cleared to race in the Belgian Grand Prix after crashing during a wet qualifying session on Saturday.

Norris spun into the barriers at Raidillon in Q3 and was taken to a local hospital for a precautionary X-ray of his elbow.

McLaren later revealed the 21-year-old has been given the green light to get back behind the wheel at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit on Sunday.

The team posted on Twitter: "Following precautionary checks after an accident during qualifying at the Belgian Grand Prix, Lando Norris has been cleared to compete in the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix by the trackside doctor and FIA medical delegate."

Norris had been quickest in each of the first two segments of qualifying before spinning off at high speed in challenging conditions.

Max Verstappen nipped in with a magnificent lap to take pole ahead of George Russell, who took a shock place on the front row with a stunning drive.

Championship leader Lewis Hamilton will start the first race following the mid-summer break in third place.

Max Verstappen took pole position at a soggy Belgian Grand Prix – and incredibly it will be George Russell alongside him on the front row.

A stunning final lap from Russell looked set to give the Williams driver a first career pole, but Formula One title hopeful Verstappen pipped him in the closing seconds.

British 23-year-old Russell, who has been tipped for a move to join Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes next season, said he was "absolutely buzzing" about his performance, defying the limitations of his car with a supreme drive.

Hamilton took third on the grid and saluted Russell's performance, with Daniel Ricciardo fourth.

The qualifying session was disrupted by heavy rain and a heavy crash for Lando Norris – Ricciardo's McLaren team-mate – which caused a hold-up in Q3 of close to 45 minutes.

Moments before smashing into the barriers, Norris complained about the conditions, and Sebastian Vettel had called for the session to be red-flagged before the crash made it an inevitability. Norris was taken to hospital for a precautionary elbow X-ray.

The drivers returned to the wet track eventually, with Hamilton quick to point out that spray remained a problem. He set an early target of 2:01.552 but Russell producing a stunning lap to go quicker.

Verstappen and Hamilton were both out on the track and chasing the new target as the clock ran down, with only the former able to achieve that.

After three weeks since the last race, the Hungarian Grand Prix, this was a return to the thrills and spills of the sport.

"I'm super happy to have a qualifying like this after the break and to have a pole position again," said Verstappen.

Russell has been on the front row once before, but that came in a Mercedes when he stood in for Hamilton last season at the Sakhir Grand Prix. He said getting out of Q1, the initial stage of the qualifying session, had been his primary target at Spa, with anything else a bonus.

"The car was feeling great and I had so much confidence," Russell said. "I was in a fortunate position where I had nothing to lose. We were in Q3 which is not the norm for us and we just had to go for it.

"I'm buzzing, absolutely buzzing. Tomorrow's the important one but it's been mega today. I'm delighted for everyone. If the weather is the same and it's there for the taking tomorrow, we'll go for it."

Hamilton, who edged ahead of Verstappen in the drivers' standings by finishing second in Hungary, said it had been "a very difficult day for everyone" due to the inclement weather.

"Well done to Max and to George," Hamilton added. "If it's like this tomorrow it's going to be tricky to balance straight line speed and downforce."
 

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 1:59.765
2. George Russell (Williams) +0.321secs
3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.334
4. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +1.099
5. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) +1.170
6. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +1.399
7. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +2.347
8. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +2.737
9. Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +3.748
10. Lando Norris (McLaren) no complete lap in Q3

Valtteri Bottas and George Russell on Thursday stated there was "no news" of who will partner Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes next year.

Silver Arrows boss Toto Wolff this week affirmed his desire to finalise his driver line-up for 2022 in September.

Williams driver Russell stepped in for Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix last year after the seven-time Formula One world champion tested positive for coronavirus.

The 23-year-old Brit also conducted a Pirelli tyre test for Mercedes ahead of the mid-season break, adding further fuel to suggestions he could take Bottas' seat.

Bottas and Russell were paired for media conference duties ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix this weekend, with neither driving giving much away over their futures.

"There's no news to share yet,” said Bottas. "Maybe I know something, maybe I don't but like I said there's no news to share."

 

Russell said: "No news to share at this stage.

"There's obviously been discussions over the summer break, but there's nothing to announce one way or another this weekend, and probably not next weekend either to be honest, which I think is no problem. Do things right, rather than quickly, let's say.

"I think we're both fortunate that we're both looked after in ways by Mercedes and we both trust them to look after our futures, one way or another.

"From my side, speaking for myself, there's no real problems and whether it's tomorrow, whether it's after Abu Dhabi, I guess you have to trust the people that are looking out for you."

Fernando Alonso has secured a second season with Alpine after the two-time Formula One champion impressed team bosses on his return to the cockpit.

After two years out of F1, Alonso has had eight top-10 finishes in 11 races of this season to date.

His and the team's best results came in the Hungarian Grand Prix last time out, where Alonso took fourth place and Esteban Ocon won the race.

Alpine, who previously competed as Renault, said in a statement on Thursday: "Alpine is pleased to announce that two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso will continue in its colours for the 2022 season alongside Esteban Ocon.

"The extension of Fernando’s contract signals the continuation of an already strong collaboration, fresh off the back of its historic maiden victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix, in which Fernando played a pivotal role."

Alonso believes the 2022 season can be particularly fruitful for Alpine, when a host of technical regulations are introduced that may lead to closer competition between the teams.

 

The 40-year-old Spanish driver said: "I'm very happy to confirm the contract extension with Alpine into 2022. I felt at home the moment I returned to this team and have been welcomed back with open arms.

"It's been a tricky season for everyone, but we've shown progress as a team and the result in Hungary serves as a good example of this progression. We're targeting more positive memories for the rest of this season but also crucially from next year onwards with the new regulation changes coming into Formula One.

"I have been a big supporter of the need for a level playing field and change in the sport and the 2022 season will be a great opportunity for that. I am looking forward to the rest of this year and racing alongside Esteban in 2022 for Alpine."

Alonso has competed in 322 F1 races across his career, winning 32 times and finishing on the podium on 97 occasions.

His F1 titles came as a Renault driver in 2005 and 2006, and Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi said: "He is just as hungry as we are for success and is putting in every effort to translate it to performance.

"For now, however, we need to focus on delivering a strong second half of the year, extract the maximum at every race and ensure we finish as high up in the constructors' standings as possible. This will put us in a golden position for next year and the significant opportunity it brings."

The 2021 Formula One title race was just hotting up as a four-week break frustratingly put the season on hold.

Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton was trailing challenger Max Verstappen through nine races this year, the last three of which the Red Bull driver won.

But back-to-back dramatic races at Silverstone and the Hungaroring put Hamilton back in the ascendancy.

Verstappen crashed out in an incident involving Hamilton at the British Grand Prix and then could only finish ninth at the Hungarian GP following another early collision.

Tempers frayed between the two races, with the Dutchman furious with Hamilton's role at Silverstone.

A pause in the campaign might have allowed the pair to settle just a little, though, before the action resumes at the Belgian GP on Sunday.

Ahead of an event where Verstappen always enjoys significant support, he said: "I am of course excited to go back to Spa.

"It's my favourite track and it's really cool to drive with so many high-speed corners and elevation changes.

"I'm also looking forward to seeing all the fans who will be coming to support us, and it will be cool to see so much orange in the grandstands again as they couldn't be there last year.

"I also think it is a good place to reset our championship fight and I'm well prepared and feeling good ahead of the weekend."

LAST TIME OUT

Verstappen would have hoped to quickly put the British GP behind him in Hungary, still leading the championship as he lined up on the grid.

But another early flashpoint, this time involving Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas among a host of other drivers, took the Red Bull superstar out of contention.

Although the red flag was soon waved, Verstappen could only recover to finish ninth.

Hamilton's woes centred instead on team tactics, as an apparent error from Mercedes had him back in last place for a time.

Yet another stunning drive took the Briton to third, though, and Sebastian Vettel's disqualification from second boosted Hamilton further up the standings.

Esteban Ocon claimed an unlikely win, but much of the focus remained on the top two in the title race.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN BELGIUM

Fireworks, if the past two races are anything to go by.

Verstappen will surely hope just to get through the first few laps without contact on Sunday, with Red Bull's sensational race pace disrupted by his repeated involvement in crashes.

All this drama has suited Hamilton rather well, meanwhile, with the Mercedes man frustrated by the Silver Arrows' deficit to their rivals prior to those outings.

Perhaps the break will have allowed Mercedes to make up some of that gap, but Hamilton has not sounded hopeful for much of this year. He is on 99 F1 wins, bidding to become the first man to three figures.

The 36-year-old is not the only Mercedes man at the centre of attention, though, as Toto Wolff is yet to confirm their second driver for 2022.

Assuming no decision is made before Sunday, George Russell will hope to lay down a marker with a strong performance in a weak Williams, while Bottas also needs a result.

TOP FIVE OPTA STATS

Successive successes? – Kimi Raikkonen was the last driver to win back-to-back Belgian GPs, with three between 2004 and 2007. Hamilton, who has a record six poles at Spa, was the most recent winner in 2020.

Quali so crucial – The past six winners at the Belgian GP have started from the front row of the grid, with five from pole and one from second. This is the longest such streak in the race's history.

Centurion in silver – This would not be Hamilton's first hundred. He was also the first to register 100 pole positions, with that total now 101 heading to Spa.

Finn to finish? – Bottas will aim to get back on track having failed to place in Hungary. Never in his F1 career has he not registered a position in consecutive races, unable to finish in Russia and the United States in 2015 but recording 12th place in the former.

No closer to Kimi – Fernando Alonso is on course to surpass Rubens Barrichello and move second with 323 grand prix appearances. However, Raikkonen's continued F1 career keeps him clear on 341.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 195
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 187
3. Lando Norris (McLaren) – 113
4. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) – 108
5. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) – 104

Constructors

1. Mercedes – 303
2. Red Bull – 291
3. McLaren – 163
3. Ferrari – 163
5. Alpine – 77

It is 30 years since the great Michael Schumacher's first race in an incredible Formula One career.

The legendary German driver made his debut at the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa, a track where his son will showcase his talents this weekend.

Schumacher went on to claim his maiden F1 victory at the same circuit in 1992 and retired with a staggering 91 victories to his name, having claimed seven world titles.

To mark the anniversary of his bow in Belgium, Stats Perform picks out some of the standout numbers Schumacher racked up in an astonishing 19 F1 seasons. 

 

JORDAN'S LOSS IS BENETTON'S GAIN

Schumacher stepped in for his first F1 race for Jordan and impressively qualified in seventh before retiring on the first lap due to clutch problems.

He spent the rest of the season driving for Benetton, picking up four points from six races.

Schumacher won once in each of the next two seasons, then won back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995 before making a lucrative move to Ferrari.

 

UNPRECEDENTED DOMINANCE

Schumacher established himself as one of the all-time greats during his decade with Ferrari, claiming his third world title in 2000.

That was the start of an unprecedented period of dominance, as he claimed a record five consecutive world titles.

Schumacher broke Juan Manuel Fangio's all-time record of being crowned world champion five times as he went from strength to strength before Fernando Alonso dethroned him in 2005.

 

 

SCALING NEW HEIGHTS TO SEVENTH HEAVEN

The 2004 season was Schumacher's most dominant as he won 13 of 18 races and was on the podium 15 times.

No driver has bettered that tally of victories for a season, but Lewis Hamilton last year matched Schumacher's haul of seven world titles.

Schumacher amassed an incredible 148 points in 2004 and that was the last time he won the championship.

 

RACKING UP THE RECORDS

Schumacher broke the record for F1 victories and finished with 91, a total Mercedes great Hamilton has gone on to surpass.

The 77 fastest laps set by Schumacher is a record, as is his 15 seasons with a victory and his 17 podium finishes in a season, set in 2002.

His 19 consecutive top-three finishes has never been bettered and nor has his 15 top-two finishes in a row, along with the most hat-tricks (pole, win and fastest lap) achieved by a driver with 22.

Schumacher's 181 races with Ferrari is the record for driving with the same constructor.

 

 

THRIVING IN FRANCE

The French Grand Prix was the race where Schumacher had the most victories, taking the top step of the podium eight times – another record.

He won at Magny-Cours for the first time in 1994 and his final win at the circuit came 12 years later.

Schumacher also holds the record for most poles at the same race with eight in Japan.

Maverick Vinales has left Monster Energy Yamaha ahead of schedule, the team announced on Friday.

Vinales and Yamaha agreed earlier this season to cut short a contract that was supposed to run through 2022, with the rider instead leaving at the end of this season.

But Vinales was at the centre of controversy at the Styrian Grand Prix, where he failed to finish.

The Spaniard cited electrical issues with his bike, but Yamaha told of his "irregular operation of the motorcycle", which "could have potentially caused significant damage to the engine".

Vinales was then cut from the Austrian GP and now will not ride for the team again.

The decision was announced in a statement, with Yamaha's team managing director Lin Jarvis explaining: "In Assen, Yamaha and Vinales already announced the mutual decision to cut short their original 2021-2022 programme and to finish it at the end of 2021.

"A commitment was made by both rider and team to continue to the end of the current season, with the team guaranteeing its full support and the rider giving his maximum efforts so that we could finish the project 'in style'.

"Regretfully, at the Styrian GP, the race did not go well or end well and consequently, after deep consideration by both parties, the mutual decision was reached that it would be better for both parties if we end the partnership earlier.

"The early separation will release the rider to be free to follow his chosen future direction and will also permit the team to focus its efforts on the remaining races of the 2021 season with a replacement rider – yet to be determined."

Vinales joined Monster Energy Yamaha in 2017 after leaving Team Suzuki Ecstar, where he had one victory across his first two seasons in MotoGP.

With Yamaha, Vinales added eight more victories among 24 podiums, finishing third in the championship in 2017 and 2019.

This year, he started the year with a triumph at the Qatar GP and was second as recently as the Dutch TT, where the initial announcement with Yamaha was agreed.

Vinales is sixth in the standings at the time of his departure.

The 2021 Japanese Grand Prix has been cancelled due to "ongoing complexities" related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Race organisers on Wednesday announced that the event at the Suzuka circuit will not take place for a second successive year.

The COVID-19 crisis pandemic prevented the 2020 from being staged and a race due to be staged on October 10 has also been called off.

A statement from Formula One said: "Following ongoing discussions with the promoter and authorities in Japan the decision has been taken by the Japanese government to cancel the race this season due to ongoing complexities of the pandemic in the country.

"Formula One is now working on the details of the revised calendar and will announce the final details in the coming weeks.

"Formula One has proven this year, and in 2020, that we can adapt and find solutions to the ongoing uncertainties and is excited by the level of interest in locations to host Formula One events this year and beyond."

The F1 season resumes with the Belgium Grand Prix on August 29, with Lewis Hamilton holding an eight-point lead over Max Verstappen at the top of the driver standings.

Fraser McConnell credits teamwork for him being able to finish second overall in the SuperCar category of the RallyX Nordic that concluded in Arvika, Sweden on Sunday.

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.

Outstanding rookie Jorge Martin feels under pressure to follow up his first MotoGP victory with another at the Austrian Grand Prix after qualifying on pole.

Martin converted pole into a dramatic victory at last week's Styrian GP at the same Red Bull Ring track.

The Spaniard – the 12th rider from his country to win in MotoGP – had set a circuit record in qualifying with a time of 1:22.994. Remarkably, he went even faster on Saturday.

Poor performance in practice saw Martin enter Q1, but he made it through to the second session and went round in 1:22.643 to lead the way again.

The Pramac Racing sensation has not won back-to-back races since he was in Moto3 in 2018 but has a fine record at the Red Bull Ring, with five podiums and wins in two of his past three outings.

Another triumph for Martin – already with 48 points, three shy of this year's three other rookies combined – would make him the first rider since Marc Marquez in 2013 to celebrate consecutive wins in his first year in MotoGP.

The 23-year-old feels the weight of expectation, saying: "I'm not thinking about winning. I feel maybe some pressure because everybody is talking about it.

"But I'm a rookie, I need to learn. For me, if tomorrow [Sunday] I'm in the top five, it will be fantastic because I need to learn.

"These guys have a lot of experience and they understand better than me how to manage the race.

"For sure, today I did not believe that I was going to make the pole. So, I don't want to be too optimistic for tomorrow but I'm one of the strongest for tomorrow.

"I think there are four or five guys who can fight for the win, so we will enjoy a good battle."

Six-time champion Marquez is one of those in contention, having qualified in fifth, along with runaway 2021 leader Fabio Quartararo, who starts from second.

Quartararo had taken Martin's track record before the rookie pole-sitter responded.

The Frenchman is the only rider to have claimed points in every race this season, including three consecutive podiums – a career best.

Should Quartararo make the podium again in Austria, he would equal Christian Sarron's French record of 18 in this category.

Provisional classification

1. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) 1:22.643
2. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) +0.034s
3. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) +0.420s
4. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) +0.477s
5. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) +0.584s
6. Jack Miller (Ducati) +0.677s
7. Joan Mir (Suzuki Ecstar) +0.735s
8. Alex Espargaro (Aprilia) +0.780s
9. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM) +0.856s
10. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM) +0.925s
11. Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda) +1.095s
12. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda) +1.347s

Monster Energy Yamaha have withdrawn rider Maverick Vinales from Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix following his "irregular operation of the motorcycle" in last week's race.

The 26-year-old failed to finish the Styrian Grand Prix due to what he put down to multiple electrical issues.

However, Yamaha said in a statement on Thursday that Vinales' actions "could have potentially caused significant damage to the engine" and have withdrawn the Spaniard from the 11th round of the championship.

Yamaha's decision was taken after "an in-depth analysis of telemetry and data over the last days".

Vinales, who races alongside championship leader Fabio Quartararo, will not be replaced by another rider at the Red Bull Ring.

The nine-time MotoGP race winner announced in June that he is to leave Yamaha a year early at the end of the 2021 season.

MotoGP championship leader Fabio Quartararo enjoyed a "good day" at the Styrian Grand Prix, as his podium finish and Jorge Martin's win extended his lead at the top of the standings.

Quartararo finished third in a race that was suspended for half an hour due to an early crash, which saw two bikes engulfed in flames.

Both riders – Dani Pedrosa and Lorenzo Savadori – escaped relatively unscathed, though the latter was unable to restart the race.

The restart benefited Martin, who had set a record time at the Red Bull Ring to take pole position in Saturday's qualifying session.

Francesco Bagnaia had overtaken the Pramac Racing rider but, despite an early attack from Jack Miller after the restart, Martin recovered to cruise to his maiden MotoGP triumph.

Behind Martin, Joan Mir (Suzuki Ecstar) claimed second, with Quartararo nipping into third – Miller's hopes fading when he skidded off the track at Turn 7 with 10 laps remaining.

Quartararo (172) now has a 40-point lead over Johann Zarco, who finished sixth, in the championship standings, with Mir further behind on 121.

"It feels so good because when there is a red flag it is always tough," said Quartararo.

"I was extremely good on the braking on Turn 3. I knew that there was a possibility to overtake and did it.

"I don't really know the position of the other guys apart from Joan and Jorge finishing in front. I am so happy. The best goal was to finish on the podium and we did it. So happy for Jorge, he took some points off Joan, so a good day."

Martin, meanwhile, was ecstatic after achieving what he labelled the first step on his path to pushing for world championship glory.

"I can't believe it, I don't believe it, that's why I'm not so excited! I think the ride was amazing. I kept a really constant pace. I was super focused," said the 23-year-old.

"Even if I did some mistakes, my target was to win the race. Joan was impressive today, he was behind me almost all the race but then in the last laps I tried a bit more and I took a gap for the lead.

"The last laps I was thinking about things – everyone who has helped me to be here – that's why I did worse in the last laps but I had this gap to manage. Thanks to all my family, this is one big step towards my big area to be world champion."

Reigning world champion Mir said: "Today was close. I'm happy because all weekend we have been there, overall.

"I needed a couple of faster laps to fight with Jorge, he did a great job. We must push a bit more, find something more for next weekend if we want to be on the top of the podium.

"I am proud of the team, they have done a great job and finally, the performance is higher, so happy and proud of them."

Jorge Martin capitalised on his record-setting pole position to claim victory in a dramatic Styrian Grand Prix on Sunday to seal his maiden win in MotoGP.

Martin, competing in his maiden MotoGP campaign, clinched pole with a time of 1:22.994 – the fastest recorded at the Red Bull Ring.

However, he needed a second chance to turn his superb qualifying session into a race triumph following an early red flag due to a crash involving Dani Pedrosa and Lorenzo Savadori.

Francesco Bagnaia had taken an early lead ahead of Martin, but when the race restarted, the original grid positions were used, and having reclaimed control from Jack Miller – who later crashed out – the Pramac Racing rider held firm to secure a first premier class success ahead of Joan Mir and runaway championship leader Fabio Quartararo.

Bagnaia wasted no time in getting on the attack and had overtaken Martin within seconds of the start, while Mir, Quartararo and Marc Marquez had an almighty tussle for position on Turn 6.

Yet their efforts proved fruitless as the red flag was soon raised.

Pedrosa fell on the exit hairpin of Turn 3 with Savadori subsequently colliding with the stricken bike.

Making his first start in MotoGP since 2018, Pedrosa came away unscathed, though Savadori had to receive further medical attention and was carried away on a stretcher. Meanwhile, race marshals had to contend with a fire on the track – a result of a ruptured fuel tank from one of the bikes.

After a 30-minute delay, the race restarted with 27 laps remaining. This time, it was Miller who was the early aggressor, with six-time MotoGP champion Marquez dropping to 14th and Martin back to third.

Miller could not hold on, though, with Martin picking his line perfectly to undertake, while defending champion Mir and Quartararo soon followed suit.

Matters were made worse for Miller with 10 laps to go, the Australian skidding out on Turn 7 as he attempted to hunt down Quartararo. It is the second successive race he has failed to finish.

The day instead belonged to Martin, the 23-year-old keeping compatriot Mir at bay to win with a 1.548-second cushion.

Quartararo came in in third, collecting more points in his quest for the world title, while Marquez – who finished on the podium in three of his four previous MotoGP races at the Red Bull Ring – had to settle for eighth.

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