Sauber aims to beat the blues of 2014 with C34’s launch

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Sauber F1 Team has today unveiled its new car for the 2015 F1 season, the C34, as it looks to bounce back from its worst ever campaign and return to the top ten this year.

The Swiss team failed to score a single point in 2014, leaving it tenth in the constructors’ championship come the end of the season as financial uncertainty threatened its future both on and off track.

However, the ship appears to have now been steadied, and today’s launch of the C34 marks a fresh start for Sauber as new drivers Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr look to take the team back into the points in 2015.

Nasr’s arrival helped the team to secure sponsorship from Banco do Brasil, whose colors dominate the new car. Blue and yellow replace the grey design of 2014, seeing a significant change in the team’s image.

“2014 was a very disappointing year,” team principal Monisha Kaltenborn said. “However, this is in the past, and we now focus on what comes next.

“We have learned our lessons and are confident for the new season. We have to improve, and be able to fight for championship points.”

Kaltenborn was quick to praise the all-new driver line-up that Sauber boasts for 2015, expressing her confidence about the partnership between Ericsson and Nasr.

“I am delighted about our two new drivers who bring a breath of fresh air,” she said. “Both are young, talented and highly motivated. On their way to Formula 1 both stood out through victories in Formula BMW and Formula 3. Both then finished this career progression off in the GP2 Series.

“While Marcus looks back to one season in Formula 1, Felipe will have his rookie year in which he comes fully prepared due to his role as test and reserve driver at Williams last year. I feel confident with regard to our drivers.”

The car does appear to be quite light on sponsors, but both Nasr and Ericsson do have significant backing. Many of the team’s Mexican backers will have departed at the end of 2014 along with Esteban Gutierrez, who has since joined Ferrari, but a new deal with computing giant Hewlett-Packard was announced four days ago.With neither Marussia nor Caterham looking capable of making a late revival and reaching the grid in Melbourne, Sauber enters the 2015 season as the defacto backmarker. However, it will be the mission of Kaltenborn, Ericsson and Nasr to fight back and get the good times flowing once again at Hinwil.

With neither Marussia nor Caterham looking capable of making a late revival and reaching the grid in Melbourne, Sauber enters the 2015 season as the defacto backmarker. However, it will be the mission of Kaltenborn, Ericsson and Nasr to fight back and get the good times flowing once again at Hinwil.

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.