Vettel closes out Abu Dhabi F1 practice fastest for Ferrari

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Sebastian Vettel bounced back from a gearbox issue in FP2 to finish fastest in the final Formula 1 practice session of the season on Saturday in Abu Dhabi.

Four-time world champion Vettel has endured a tough year with Ferrari in 2016, failing to win a race or put up a fight for the drivers’ title despite high pre-season hopes.

However, ahead of the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi, Vettel gave Ferrari a boost by topping the timesheets in FP3 at the Yas Marina Circuit.

Vettel put in a fastest lap time of 1:40.775 on the ultra-soft tire to finish 0.137 seconds clear of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, with Kimi Raikkonen slotting into third place for Ferrari.

Mercedes had enjoyed the early edge in the session, but did not show its hand completely late on as title contenders Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg ended FP3 in fourth and fifth place respectively.

Daniel Ricciardo finished FP3 sixth for Red Bull, opting to limit his running to save tires for qualifying, with Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg ending up seventh and eighth for Force India. Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Gutierrez rounded out the top 10.

Although the results point to a shaken-up grid, with qualifying taking place in far different conditions as the sun sets in Abu Dhabi, FP3 is a far from representative session.

You can watch qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix live on CNBC and the NBC Sports app from 8am ET on Saturday.

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

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images

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.