Sainz: No plans to leave Red Bull programme despite senior team being ‘quite closed’

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Carlos Sainz Jr. claims he is not considering a move away from the Red Bull programme in Formula 1 despite admitting that the driver situation at its senior team is “quite closed”.

Sainz made his grand prix debut with Toro Rosso, Red Bull’s junior F1 team, at the beginning of 2015 and has impressed many in the paddock in the meantime.

However, when Red Bull took the decision to demote Daniil Kvyat back to Toro Rosso, Sainz’s teammate Max Verstappen was promoted up into the senior outfit.

With both Verstappen and Red Bull lead driver Daniel Ricciardo locked in on long-term contracts, Sainz’s chances of moving up from Toro Rosso in the future look slim, leading to speculation about a possible move away from the Red Bull setup for 2017.

“The silly season has started very early! We are in the eighth race of the season and you guys are already speaking about this,” Sainz told NBCSN.

“What I can say is that I’m very happy with how things have been going lately for me, very happy to keep growing inside Toro Rosso because we have been improving a lot.

“These things you are talking about are just rumors. My career has been guided by Red Bull and they’ve always taken the right decision for me.

“So hopefully, when the time comes, after hopefully continuing a good run of races, they will take a decision regarding me and it’s the right one.”

Sainz conceded that the driver line-up at Red Bull seems set for many years to come, but believes that Toro Rosso can move up the grid and be more competitive.

“It’s true that in Red Bull the situation looks quite closed,” Sainz said.

“But we must keep thinking that Toro Rosso with a good power unit and one more year of experience and growing could be also in a good position. James Key is a brilliant engineer that is bringing the team up also.

“We will see where we can be next year, obviously I don’t want at the moment to move from the Red Bull programme and from Toro Rosso and obviously Red Bull more in the future as it looks quite closed at the moment.”

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.