New regulations crucial in Honda’s decision to return to F1

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After leaving the sport at the end of 2008, Honda is ready to make its return to Formula 1 next season with McLaren as the lure of going green proved to be too great to ignore.

For the first time since it was confirmed that the Japanese manufacturer would be powering the British team next season, a representative has appeared in the FIA press conference. Chief Officer of Motorsports Yasuhisa Arai faced the media on Friday in Shanghai, and revealed more information about Honda’s plans for the next few years.

“One of the major reasons for our decision was the new regulation introduced this year and that the various environment,” Arai explained. “I mean green technologies in the new Formula 1 power unit, as well as the total energy management are both very challenging and significant.

“The new regulation encourages each power unit supplier to pursue the ultimate combustions efficiency and high pressure direct injections, such as many, many new technology.

“Thus the challenge is to convert each unit of gasoline into energy and this is expected to be reflected on the huge production mode. That’s the reason why.”

The new regulations have been met with mixed responses, but in this case it is clear that they are doing some good. Honda will become the fourth engine supplier on the grid for 2015 alongside Renault, Ferrari and Mercedes, but for season one it will only be working with McLaren.

“For 2015, McLaren is our only customer,” Arai confirmed. “I don’t think about the future, because we want to concentrate on next season.

“If teams want to use our engine or power unit, we can deliver after year 2016 but right now there are no plans.”

Honda’s F1 operations are set to be run from Milton Keynes in England, and Arai confirmed that the factory will open in two months’ time.

“That, we will open June this year,” he said. “Now still under construction but that factory is to do the engine maintenance for the races and rebuilding the Formula 1 engine and also to go to the race-track for the trackside service. That’s Milton Keynes.”

The rekindling of the McLaren-Honda partnership undoubtedly stirs memories of their success in the late 1980s with Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, and although it might not quite reach such dizzy heights this time around, it certainly has the potential to take McLaren back to the very front of the field.

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.