Alonso and Button weigh in on Mercedes championship fight

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Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button have both shared their thoughts on the battle for the drivers’ championship unfolding at Mercedes in 2014.

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have enjoyed racing by far the fastest car in 2014, winning all but one of the races – only McLaren in 1988 has made a better start to an F1 season – but the internal fight looks set to rage on.

Currently, just four points separate the two drivers at the top of the standings, and as the F1 season reaches its halfway point, we’re poised for a fascinating battle.

Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button are two drivers who have been embroiled in title fights over the years, and for Alonso, a psychological battle for victory is not only inevitable, but it is also important for those involved.

“It’s very important,” said the Ferrari driver on mind games. “I think it’s a very tight fight. Rosberg’s still in front, they will fight until the end probably, because even if someone has some retirements, with the 50 points in Abu Dhabi, it’s difficult to imagine one of them will arrive with more than 5o [in hand], so it will be very interesting.

“They will enjoy the fight, but at the same time there will be some ups and downs, and they have to be strong as well.”

Jenson Button was rather diplomatic and refused to pick a winner, but he did say that he hopes that the 2014 world champion is a deserving one.

“Score more points! Do a better job!” he quipped when asked how to beat your teammate. “I’ve been asked who’s going to win the championship this year… who knows. I hope it’s the guy who does the better job on the circuit.”

With just two races to go until the summer break, whoever is leading the championship ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix at the beginning of fall could have a psychological edge as well as the mathematical one. Either way, as Alonso said, it looks like that we’re set for an Abu Dhabi finale – double points and all.

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.