Force India rue missed opportunity

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Force India drivers Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil were both left ruing retirements after having good pace in the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Both drivers were lapping very quickly on the drying track, with di Resta posting the fastest lap at one point, and the team looked set for a strong double score until problems in the pits dropped the cars down the order. Eventually, the team opted to retire both cars, although Adrian Sutil admitted that he was still unsure what the problem was.

“We’re not sure exactly what happened yet so the team stopped the cars to make sure we understand the issue.

“It’s a shame that this happened here because we had a very quick car today and I felt very comfortable as the track dried out. We have to stay positive, keep our heads up and remember that there are plenty of races left where we can make up for the disappointment of today.”

Sutil had qualified in eighth for the race, ahead of Paul di Resta who had been caught out by the rain in Q2 on Saturday. The British driver had made good headway during the race, and he was similarly disappointed to not have finished.

“It’s frustrating to come away with nothing given how competitive we have looked all weekend.

“We saw an issue at Adrian’s first pit stop when I was sat behind him, which cost me about 15 seconds, and then I had the same issue with the wheel nut at my second pit stop. As a precaution the team chose to retire the car.”

di Resta did however take the positives from the race weekend, and he is now relishing the next race in China in three weeks’ time.

“The good news is that we have the performance in the car, but this is definitely a missed opportunity because we had the potential to score a lot of points today. We will go away, take this on the chin, and come back fighting in China.”

Force India have certainly shown strong pace at the beginning of the season, and their haul of ten points still places them fifth in the constructors ahead of McLaren, Sauber and Toro Rosso.

Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images
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Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.