Vettel: Intention was always to stay with Ferrari despite Mercedes rumors

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Sebastian Vettel says he always intended to stay with Ferrari for the 2018 Formula 1 season despite being linked with a move to Mercedes, calling his signing of a new contract “a no brainer”.

Ferrari put an end to speculation that Vettel could leave at the end of the season by announcing a new three-year contract on Saturday, taking the German to the end of the 2020 season.

Speaking in Saturday’s press conference following qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix, Vettel professed his love for racing for Ferrari, with the people involved being a key factor in his decision to stay.

“I love this team. I love the people that are working for this brand,” Vettel said. “I believe Ferrari has something unique, something I think other teams don’t have. If you talk and people talk about a legend, to me, it appears that this legend is still alive because the people that work for it day in, day out.

“If you walk down the streets in Maranello, the presence of Ferrari is huge, but if you see the people working at Ferrari, meet them, then it’s even bigger what they carry inside them, the passion for the brand.

“I think and I am convinced allowing every single one to go an extra step compared to other people, other teams, that’s my conviction and it’s extremely great to be part of that family.

“In a way it was a no-brainer to continue. We haven’t yet achieved what we wanted to achieve but things are looking pretty good. Obviously we have a long road ahead of us.”

Mercedes non-executive director Niki Lauda told British TV on Saturday that Vettel had “talked briefly” with the team about a move, but discussions never became serious or centered on a contract.

“I have been around in the paddock so I know people so it’s natural that you talk, but a bit more than chatting. Mostly about other stuff to be honest,” Vettel said.

“I’ve been talking for a while with Ferrari, as I said my intention was to stay. We haven’t succeeded so the mission is still going.

“I want to win in red. I talked about my inspiration early for Michael [Schumacher], he was mostly dressed in red, he won most of his races in red and his championships.

“I don’t want to step in his footsteps. I think the whole generation of the Ferrari team today wants to leave their own footsteps but certainly there’s a huge inspirations. Something that for me is now the biggest challenge, the biggest dream that I have and what I want to achieve.”

Vettel also confirmed that he signed the contract agreement within the 48 hours prior to the deal being announced, having said on Thursday that news on his future was unlikely for another two weeks.

“I didn’t think that it was probably the right time. I didn’t rush or push, but things were coming along together fairly quickly in the end,” Vettel said.

“We decided to go for it and make the call. I know it wasn’t the best in terms of one day and then the other, but that’s how it was.”

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.