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Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix preview, Fabio Quartararo MotoGP title chances, Valentino Rossi says goodbye

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Fabio Quartararo is within touching distance of his first MotoGP world title at Sunday’s Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix which will host Valentino Rossi’s final farewell to his adoring Italian fans.

Yamaha rider Quartararo, 22, is 52 points ahead of Ducati’s Francesco Bagnaia who sits second in the championship standings with three races left in the 2021 season heading into the race at Misano on Italy’s Adriatic coast.

With 25 points the maximum available Quartararo will become the first ever French MotoGP winner if he finishes ahead of home hope Bagnaia, who is hunting his own debut triumph at the age of 24.

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Quartararo should be in confident mood after his impressive second place behind Marc Marquez at the Grand Prix of the Americas in Texas last time out, which set up his bid to claim the title this weekend.

He also finished second at Misano in the San Marino MotoGP last month.

“For this final part of the competition my mindset has changed a little. The last time we were in Misano, I was racing for the win and not thinking about the championship at all,” said Quartararo.

“Of course I will still do my best as always to get the best result possible this weekend, because that’s what I enjoy most, but I will try to be smart about it.”

Valentino Rossi, who will retire at the end of the season, will make his last home appearance at the upcoming Emilia-Romagna MotoGP in Misano on October 24, which replaces the cancelled Malaysian GP. (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP)
Valentino Rossi, who will retire at the end of the season, will make his last home appearance at the upcoming Emilia-Romagna MotoGP in Misano on October 24, which replaces the cancelled Malaysian GP. (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP)Source: AFP

Bagnaia has good reason to think he can extend the title race for at least one more GP as he held off Quartararo from pole position to win at Misano in September, having recorded a track record time in qualifying.

The former Rossi protege will be keen for another success in front of an emotional home crowd who will be there mostly to say goodbye to a motorcycling legend.

Seven-time MotoGP champion Rossi, 42, grew up riding at Misano and still only lives a short drive away from the track, with his own motorcycling team VR46 based a few miles down the road in his home town of Tavullia.

Up to 35,000 fans are expected at the track on Sunday for Rossi’s final MotoGP race on Italian soil, hoping for one last flourish in front of a yellow wall of supporters.

Rossi has failed to set the track alight during his slow march towards retirement at the end of the season and sits 21st in the overall standings after only making the top 10 twice all season.

He finished a lowly 17th at Misano in September, which was also an occasion for fans to hail one of Italy’s sporting icons.

“The previous race in Misano was already a really emotional moment for me,” said Rossi.

“This one will be a special race at home and I really hope the Italian fans can enjoy it.”

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Enzo Fittipaldi crash, Theo Pourchaire, video, Oscar Piastri wins

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Enzo Fittipaldi, grandson of former Formula One world champion Emerson Fittipaldi, was airlifted to hospital after a serious crash at the start of the Formula 2 race in Jeddah, the FIA said.

French driver Theo Pourchaire, 18, who was also taken to hospital, was involved in the accident which happened when his ART car stalled on the grid.

Brazilian Fittipaldi, 20, then hit him hard from behind.

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“The drivers were immediately attended to by emergency and medical crews,” Formula 2 said in a statement.

“The drivers were conscious and extricated by the attending medical crews. Both have been transferred by ambulance and helicopter to King Fahad Armed Forces Hospital, Jeddah.”

“Theo is fine, he has no fracture,” Alfa Romeo F1 boss Frederic Vasseur told an AFP journalist at the starting grid for the Formula One Grand Prix.

Chaos in Jeddah.Source: Getty Images

The Formula 2 race was swiftly red-flagged with the rest of the field returning to the pits.

It restarted 40 minutes later before another accident and red flag brought it to a premature end, with Australian Oscar Piastri declared the winner as his world title edges closer.

Born in July 2001 in Miami, Enzo Fittipaldi graduated from karting through the levels to Formula 3 with Charouz Racing in 2021.

In September, he stepped up to Formula 2 for the second part of the season, making his debut for Czech team Charouz at Monza.

He finished seventh on Saturday in Race 2 in Jeddah, scoring his first points in F2.

He was a member of the Ferrari driver academy from 2017 to 2020. His grandfather Emerson won two F1 world championships with Lotus in 1972 when he was just 25, the youngest champion up to then, and two years later with McLaren.

Enzo’s older brother Pietro, 25, made his Formula One debut with Haas at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix, replacing the injured Romain Grosjean.

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Oscar Piastri world championship, results, Saudi Arabia, standings, Australian driver, F1 prospect

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Australia’s Oscar Piastri could become Formula 2 world champion overnight after a stellar start to the second-last race weekend of the season.

Piastri claimed victory in the second sprint race in Saudi Arabia, extending his lead at the top of the championship for the F1 feeder series, and will be on pole for Monday’s feature race (1:25am AEDT).

The Melburnian, who will be Alpine’s reserve driver next season after missing out on an F1 seat at Alfa Romeo, leads the championship on 200 points.

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Guanyu Zhou, who was picked for the Alfa seat, has struggled all weekend and sits third on 143 points, while Robert Shwartzman has moved into second on 153 points.

If Piastri can extend his current 47-point lead out to 66 points, he will clinch the world title before next week’s finale in Abu Dhabi.

Piastri (left) looks to overtake Jehan Daruvala during the second F2 sprint race in Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
Piastri (left) looks to overtake Jehan Daruvala during the second F2 sprint race in Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

With Shwartzman starting second in the feature race behind Piastri and Zhou sixth, that appears somewhat unlikely, though possible.

The Aussie would need to win the race with the fastest lap while Shwartzman finishes sixth or worse (without the fastest lap, seventh or worse), as Zhou finishes third or worse.

No Australian has ever won the Formula 2 title, nor of its predecessors GP2 or International Formula 3000.

Piastri would become the third driver to win the Formula 3 and Formula 2 titles consecutively, following George Russell and Charles Leclerc.

Meanwhile Jack Doohan, the son of motorbike great Mick, finished fifth in the second sprint race – just his second F2 appearance – after making the jump up from F3.

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Hamilton tries to send F1 title fight to finale after Mad Max’s big mistake: Saudi Arabia GP live

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Lewis Hamilton snatched pole position for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as championship leader Max Verstappen smashed into a wall and could only manage third place.

Verstappen’s hopes were extinguished when his Red Bull speared into the barriers at the exit of the last bend on his final flying lap on the tight, unforgiving Jeddah street circuit just as he appeared poised to unseat his rival.

Follow the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix live from 4:30am AEDT below!

RACE CENTRE: Grid, live timing, results and more

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“It was terrible,” said a shaken but unhurt Verstappen.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas was second and will share the front row on Sunday.

“What a tough track this is,” said Hamilton after a lap of 1min 27.511sec and who remains on course for a record eighth world title.

“It’s incredibly technical and complex. It’s amazing what they have built, the speed, it’s phenomenal.

“We were quick through practice but particularly FP3 and qualifying, we were struggling with the pace and the tyres, so for us to get a one-two, really proud of Valtteri and the team. It’s a great result.

“Given where we were, I’m grateful for what we have got today.”

Hamilton tops practice on fast track | 01:11

For Hamilton, who has cut Verstappen’s championship lead with successive wins in Brazil and Qatar, it was a fifth pole of the season and 103rd of his career.

Verstappen, who has an eight-point lead over Hamilton with just two races left, can claim his first world title on Sunday if he wins the race and Hamilton finishes outside the top six.

If not, the 2021 title battle will go down to the wire in Abu Dhabi next weekend.

“I don’t really understand what happened (on the final flying lap). I locked up a bit,” Verstappen.

“It was terrible but in general, it was a good qualifying. It was a bit hard to switch on the tyres because it’s a street circuit but I knew the pace was there.”

– ‘Pretty brutal’ –

He added: “P3 is disappointing but today did show that the car is quick around here so we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”

Red Bull team chief Christian Horner was hoping Verstappen’s car did not suffer gearbox damage.

If it needs to be replaced the Dutchman will face a grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

“That was looking like the lap of the year. It’s a great shame,” Horner told Sky Sports.

“He just grabbed the front end at the last corner and tried to keep the momentum — as he could see on his dash he was 0.4 up going into the corner — and unfortunately he has ran out of road.

“Pretty brutal but we’ll hope the gearbox isn’t damaged and see what we can do tomorrow. Max will be frustrated. He knows what a good lap it was.”

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull made up the top five for Sunday’s race, the first to be held in the kingdom.

Leclerc SLAMS wall hard in practice | 00:31

Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri), Lando Norris (McLaren), Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri), Esteban Ocon (Alpine) and Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) complete the top 10.

Securing pole capped a dramatic day for seven-time champion Hamilton. He escaped a sanction for yellow flag incidents in Saturday practice after being summoned over an alleged failure to slow under double waved yellow flags, and for blocking the Haas of Nikita Mazepin.

However, the Mercedes star was cleared of any wrongdoing after the stewards admitted that a double-waved yellow light panel had been activated accidentally.

Mercedes were fined 25,000 euros for the second incident.

Verstappen was hit with a five-place grid penalty for failing to respect double-waved yellow flags during qualifying in Qatar last month.

Follow the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix below!

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