Verstappen misses chance to become F1’s first teenager on pole

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Formula 1’s wait for its first teenager to start on pole position will continue after Max Verstappen lost out to Sebastian Vettel in the final stage of qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix on Saturday night.

After making his debut aged 17, Verstappen became F1’s youngest race winner last year and is the youngest driver to start on the front row of the grid, lining up P2 at Spa last year.

While the Red Bull driver still has over a year to break Vettel’s record for being the youngest pole-sitter, his chance to do so while still a teenager passed by in Singapore, as he will celebrate his 20th birthday on the Saturday of the Malaysian Grand Prix in two weeks’ time.

After leading FP3, Q1 and Q2, Verstappen looked in good shape for pole, but ultimately could not match Vettel’s stunning final effort in Q3.

“All weekend has been a good build up, getting faster and faster and finding a smooth rhythm so to come away with second is a really good result,” Verstappen said.

“I took a little bit of risk to put down a good lap as we had predicted the others would improve from yesterday and this morning’s sessions. Perhaps there was a bit of time in the last sector to find but in general I am very pleased with how the car and I performed.

“That was the best balance in terms of set-up I have had with the car in qualifying all year and that is a big positive. My quickest time was more or less the maximum I could do, Sebastian just had an even better lap.

“Race pace is good so we have a chance tomorrow but it looks like Ferrari have found quite a lot.

“The start will be important and maybe if there are a couple of safety cars that could impact the result too.”

The Singapore Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday.

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.