Tost excited by prospect of Renault buying Toro Rosso

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Franz Tost believes that a rumored sale of Scuderia Toro Rosso to French manufacturer Renault could provide the boost required to allow his team to break into the top five in Formula 1.

Following the Australian Grand Prix, Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko said that the energy drink brand could quit F1 completely unless changes are made to the current regulations.

This only fuelled rumors of a possible sale of Toro Rosso – which is owned by Red Bull – to Renault, who is thought to be seeking a return with a factory team.

When asked about the speculation in Friday’s FIA press conference ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix, Tost said that a possible sale could be very lucrative for Toro Rosso.

“I think this would be a fantastic opportunity for Toro Rosso to make the next step forward,” Tost said.

“The team wants to be established in the future within the first five in the constructors’ championship and to be part of a manufacturer, to work together with a manufacturer, to be owned by a manufacturer would be exactly this step forward which the team needs to be established in the first five.”

Renault engine chief Cyril Abiteboul was also asked about the rumors, and said that the French marque was considering a number of options for its F1 future – one of which was quitting the sport altogether.

“I can confirm that we are looking at a lot of options, including getting out of Formula 1,” Abiteboul said. “Honestly, if Formula 1 is that bad for Renault’s reputation, if we see that we struggle with the current formula, if Formula One is not delivering value what it costs Renault […] this is what we are looking at.

“Obviously we think that we are a credible player in the sport but we want to compete amongst the best brands and that Formula 1 is good for us as a brand, then we need to think about what else can we do to what we are doing.

“If you do that, this is an open market, we have the capacity to have discussions with lots of parties. But as I’ve said, for the time being the focus is on engines.”

Renault last raced in F1 with a full works team back in 2009, having bought out Benetton in 2002. The operation now exists as Lotus F1 Team, which cut all ties with Renault at the end of 2014.

As Red Bull’s B-team, it is interesting that Tost expressed such support for a sale to a manufacturer such as Renault. The subtext to this is the belief that, so long as Red Bull owns Toro Rosso, it will forever be a midfield outfit with little hope of breaking into the top five teams.

Regardless of Red Bull’s own involvement in F1, should Dietrich Mateschitz – the owner of the energy drink brand – decide that Toro Rosso has fulfilled its purpose of nurturing future drivers for the main team, then a possible sale could occur without a complete withdrawal from F1.

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.