Fernley: Crucial to protect F1’s summer break

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Bob Fernley has called on Formula 1 to safeguard its summer break and ensure that the paddock is not burned out by an ever-expanding calendar.

For 2016, a record-breaking 21-race schedule has been provisionally announced by the FIA, starting with the Australian Grand Prix on April 3.

The later start to the season means that there are more back-to-back races, and the summer break has been shortened from four to three weeks.

Speaking at last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, Force India’s deputy team principal said that although the sport must work to welcome new races onto the calendar, the summer break must be safeguarded to prevent burnout of his staff.

“I think it’s very important to support the commercial rights holder,” Fernley said. “We understand the challenges it faces to put a global sport on and we have to make efforts to accommodate races where we can.

“But I think also that has to be done around the teams. We run a very tight ship. Most of the teams run a tight ship.

“The travelling staff need to have that summer break and if we don’t do that we’re going to burn them out or we’re going to have to bring in a second crew. Either way it’s not good for Formula 1 or the costs of the independent teams.

“The other thing I think as well is that from a media point of view there is a certain amount of anticipation that comes after the summer break for the second half of the season and I think we shouldn’t forget the importance of that from the expectation of fans and the eagerness of fans to get into the second half.

“So I think the summer break as a whole, from my point of view and from Force India’s point of view, should be retained at all costs.”

According to a report from motorsport.com over the Italian Grand Prix weekend, the summer break will be extended back to four weeks with the shifting of races in Belgium, Italy and Singapore, whilst Malaysia will move to the penultimate round of the season.

Fernley also confirmed that Force India is close to agreeing a new deal with Sergio Perez for the 2016 season, and expects an announcement to be made before the next race in Singapore.

“I think it’s very important for us to try to keep stability and I expect we’ll do that,” Fernley said. “Vijay is working very hard now to finish off the second contract with Checo and hopefully we’ll get some news on that for Singapore.

“With the continuity and the stability of rules into 2016 hopefully we can carry the performance through.”

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

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
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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.