Gutierrez: Ferrari experience has prepared me well for Haas

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Esteban Gutierrez believes that his work as Ferrari’s reserve driver across the course of the 2015 Formula 1 season has prepared him well for a return to a full-time race role with Haas next year.

Gutierrez left Sauber at the end of 2014 after two years of racing in F1 before slotting into a reserve role at Ferrari where he worked under Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.

The Mexican was announced as the second driver for NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas’ eponymous team last month, which will debut in 2016 at the Australian Grand Prix and enjoys a technical partnership with Ferrari.

Despite not starting a race since the end of 2014, Gutierrez is confident that his experience with the Ferrari power unit and work at Maranello over the past year will make him invaluable to Haas during its debut season.

“I believe that I can contribute a lot with my experience, my knowledge of the development of the engine, the gearbox from 2012 to 2013, 2014 when the rules changed dramatically, how it developed from 2014 to 2015,” Gutierrez said.

“I’ve always been driving Ferrari engines so I know all the procedures and everything. I think it’s a very important thing to have.”

Gutierrez thanked Ferrari for its support over the past year and spoke fondly of his time with the team in his reserve role.

“I feel very grateful for this amazing opportunity to be with Ferrari,” Gutierrez said. “It has been a very long season, but at the same time it went by very quickly.

“I have learnt many things from a lot of very good guys in the team, best mechanics, best engineers, two world champions like Sebastian and Kimi, the best team principal, Maurizio [Arrivabene].

“I really want to thank them because they have opened the doors for me to be part of it as a third driver, to contribute as well and to take the most of my experience.

“Now I have a big challenge ahead, that I’m much looking forward to.”

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.