Hamilton quickest in second practice for Abu Dhabi GP


ABU DHABI – Lewis Hamilton has sent out a statement of intent during practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix by finishing as the quickest driver in both sessions on Friday, beating Mercedes teammate and championship rival Nico Rosberg.

Hamilton heads into the final race of the 2014 Formula 1 season with a 17-point lead over Rosberg at the top of the standings, and even with double points on offer for the final round, a top two finish will be enough to secure the Briton the title.

After topping the daytime FP1 session on Friday, Hamilton’s good form continued once the sun had set at Yas Marina, posting a fastest lap time of 1:42.113 to finish just eight-hundredths of a second faster than Rosberg.

The season-long game of cat and mouse looks set to continue in Abu Dhabi, with both drivers trading fastest lap times during their qualifying simulations before switching to high-fuel long runs for the second half of the session.

After finishing third in FP1, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso had hoped to follow the Mercedes drivers home once again, but a complete electrical failure on his Ferrari brought him to a halt on just his second lap. As a result, he finished at the bottom of the timesheets without posting a time.

Instead, it was McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen who rose to third place in FP2, finishing seven-tenths of a second adrift of the Silver Arrows at the front. Sebastian Vettel finished fourth despite lamenting a lack of rear grip, with Williams’ Valtteri Bottas making up for the time lost in FP1 by finishing fifth.

After a disappointing first run for Caterham in FP1, F1 debutant Will Stevens improved in the second session to finish within the 107% time of Hamilton at the front, meaning that he should have no problem meeting the qualifying criteria on Saturday.

In the battle for the championship, though, the heat is well and truly on. As Hamilton continues to push at the front, Rosberg knows that he must dig deep if he is to stand any chance of winning the title in Abu Dhabi. Given that the chasing pack is far behind the Mercedes drivers, the chances of a driver finishing between the German and Hamilton look slim, making the Briton’s life much easier.

Be sure to join us for FP3 on Saturday at 5a ET tomorrow on NBC Sports Live Extra, with qualifying airing at 8a ET on NBCSN.

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

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images

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.