Vasseur eager to resolve Sauber’s ‘Honda question’ for 2018

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Newly-appointed Sauber Formula 1 chief Frederic Vasseur is eager to resolve the team’s “Honda question” for 2018 amid speculation that its announced deal could be scrapped.

Sauber announced a power unit deal with Honda for 2018 over the Russian Grand Prix weekend prior to former team principal and CEO Monisha Kaltenborn’s departure from the team.

Kaltenborn left ahead of last month’s race in Azerbaijan after a disagreement with team chairman Pascal Picci, with reports suggesting the Honda deal was a key point of contention.

Multiple outlets including Auto Bild and Autosport claimed earlier this week that Sauber’s deal with Honda had not been completed despite the announcement, putting it at risk for 2018 following the change in leadership.

Honda’s lack of competitiveness is apparently a concern for Sauber’s top management, and Vasseur confirmed to French newspaper L’Equipe that he too has qualms.

“The Honda question is on the table. It’s the first one I’m going to work on,” Vasseur said.

“We need to take care of this quickly. In light of what I hear from McLaren, it can be scary.”

Should Sauber scrap the deal, Honda may be left without any teams to supply in F1 next year as McLaren continues to deliberate its future engine partner.

McLaren has languished at the back of the grid for much of the season, leaving the relationship with Honda close to breaking point.

The British team has been linked with engine deals with Mercedes, Renault and even Ferrari for 2018 as it looks to move back up the grid, making it possible that Honda may have a year out of the sport if they too part ways and no other contracts are secured.

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.