Formula One’s 2013 confirmed and possible goodbyes at Brazil

0 Comments

As ever, the end of a Formula One season marks the end of several eras, and the 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix (11 a.m. ET, Sunday, on NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra) is no different. You have several entities signing off to F1 altogether, some leaving their teams and others uncertain. Without further adieu, here’s who or what you’ll see for the last time in their current guise on Sunday:

LEAVING F1 ALTOGTHER

MARK WEBBER, TO RED BULL

Candid, outspoken, determined, gritty and all-around cool, Australia’s Mark Webber will start a Grand Prix for the 215th and final time on Sunday after a career dating to 2002.

Webber’s won nine Grands Prix and 13 pole positions – all with Red Bull, which he joined in 2007 – after prior stints at Williams, Jaguar and Minardi. His Minardi debut in his home grand prix in 2002 was a thing of beauty, a shock fifth place and a surprise trip to the podium after the main one.

Since Sebastian Vettel has arrived at Red Bull, the German has been relentless to gain the upper hand. For one last time though, we can dream of Webber taking it to his teammate, winning the finale (as he did in 2011) and perhaps, maybe, getting a good launch from the grid.

V8s, AND COSWORTHS

Perhaps fitting in a sense these two eras bow out at the same time. The first year of V8s, in 2006, Cosworth was permitted to run a grandfathered and rev-limited V10 at Toro Rosso. While the shrill shrieks of the V10s are long gone, the current hum and noise of the normally aspirated V8s will be replaced by the turbocharged, smaller 1.6L V6s next year. No one knows how they’ll sound yet in race situations, but for now, a chance to enjoy the V8s at historic Sao Paulo awaits.

As for Cosworth, it’s a shame given its overall history in the sport. The memorable Cosworth DFV – “off the shelf” – garnered 155 wins between 1967 and 1983. In its current iteration, Nico Hulkenberg’s pole for Williams in 2010 at Sao Paulo was the ultimate highlight.

DRIVERS LEAVING CURRENT TEAMS

FELIPE MASSA, TO FERRARI

Webber’s career hasn’t hit the same heights – or depths – as Massa’s has in his Ferrari career dating to 2006. This was a driver who largely outpaced Kimi Raikkonen in their two-and-a-half years as teammates, and a driver who of course famously, nearly, won the 2008 World Championship.

But the accident at Hungary in 2009, and the team orders controversy a year later at Hockenheim, has taken the wind out of the sails for the second half of Massa’s time at the Scuderia. It’s a lamentable end for a popular driver who seeks a rebirth at Williams next year.

SERGIO PEREZ, TO MCLAREN

On paper, Perez was the rising star picked to replace Lewis Hamilton this year, but McLaren opted to dump him after just one year prior to the USGP. Still, Perez has had his moments this year with a difficult chassis, and has proven enough in three seasons to merit another shot.

PASTOR MALDONADO, TO WILLIAMS

The excellent and staggering 2012 Spanish Grand Prix weekend aside, honestly, there’s little positive to be said about Maldonado’s three-year tenure at Williams other than he brought them a lot of money. His attitude and penchant for contact blotted his copybook rather frequently.

DANIEL RICCIARDO, TO TORO ROSSO

This is the under-reported part of Webber retiring; this is the last time the junior Australian on the grid will be racing with lower pressure and lower expectations. He’d better relish it because the media scrutiny will intensify at the Red Bull mothership next year.

TEAMS LEAVING CURRENT ENGINES

  • WILLIAMS will switch from Renault to Mercedes in 2014.
  • TORO ROSSO from Ferrari to Renault.
  • MARUSSIA from Cosworth to Ferrari.

COULD IT BE THE LAST TIME FOR?

  • For HEIKKI KOVALAINEN at Lotus…
  • For NICO HULKENBERG and/or ESTEBAN GUTIERREZ at Sauber…
  • Ditto for PAUL DI RESTA and/or ADRIAN SUTIL at Force India…
  • Ditto for CHARLES PIC and/or GIEDO VAN DER GARDE at Caterham…
  • Lastly, for MAX CHILTON at Marussia…

All will be revealed in due course. With the driver market far from sorted, this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix is the last 2013 chance to make a lasting impact.

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

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images
0 Comments

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.