Steady Hulkenberg looks to continue points streak in Austria

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Nico Hulkenberg’s efficient season continued in Canada with a fifth-place finish, and as Austria now looms, the German driver is hopeful that his season-long streak of scoring points will carry on.

“We are in a very good position to keep scoring points, but we will need to keep our guard up and keep working hard as we did from the start,” he said recently.

“There will be tracks where we will be stronger and where we can capitalize on the opportunities we have, and tracks that will be more of a challenge.

“I know what plans the team has for the rest of the season and I see no reason why we cannot keep battling at the level we are at now.”

Force India currently sits fourth in the Constructors’ Championship and is looking up directly at Ferrari, which holds an 87-77 lead for third. Below them is McLaren, which is fifth in Constructors’ with 66 points.

As for the upcoming Austrian Grand Prix, Hulkenberg is optimistic that the Red Bull Ring will play to his car’s strengths.

“Together with Russia, this race is one of the big question marks for everyone this year,” he said. “The track has some long straights and a few slow corners that should suit us, and we can count on making the most of softer compounds as we did in Canada.

“When you go to a new track, it’s even more important to maximize the practice sessions because there is so much more to learn. The lap is quite short so the gaps between the cars will be minimal and even small mistakes can make a big difference.”

Also betting on a solid performance once again is Hulkenberg’s boss, Vijay Mallya, who isn’t expecting a major shake-up of the pecking order in Austria.

“…Cars that have been competitive so far will retain their advantage,” he said. “The track layout seems likely to be favorable to the characteristics of the VJM07, but the competitive order is very tight and we will need to be performing at our best to come away with a good result.”

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.