Magnussen stars on debut to qualify fourth

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Kevin Magnussen has immediately thrust himself into the Formula 1 spotlight with a sparkling performance during qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix to secure fourth place on the grid.

The Dane, who is just the third rookie to make his debut for McLaren after Alain Prost and Lewis Hamilton, managed to keep his cool in the wet conditions and produce a fine lap in Q3 to qualify fourth. Having finished in second place in Q1 and easily made it through Q2, Magnussen showed experience far beyond his 21 years, although he did admit to making a mistake on his final lap.

“Those were difficult conditions, especially as I’ve never driven this track in the wet,” he explained. “It was quite tricky to get the lines and the braking points right. It was much trickier than anything I’ve done before!

“But I don’t think I could have asked for any more today. I made a mistake and went off on my last lap, so I might have been able to go quicker, but I’m still happy. I’m proud of myself, but also proud of the whole team for doing such a massively good job of preparing me over the winter.”

However, Magnussen refused to get ahead of himself, knowing that the true challenge will come tomorrow in his maiden grand prix outing.

“The race is tomorrow and so are the points, so we need a good Sunday,” the Dane said. “I’ll try to enjoy tomorrow and do the best I can.”

Magnussen soundly outqualified veteran teammate Jenson Button, who failed to make it through to Q3 and will start the race from 10th place tomorrow (taking into account Valtteri Bottas’ grid drop). However, the reigning Formula Renault 3.5 champion must now finish the job and look to pick up a good haul of points on his Formula 1 debut tomorrow.

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.