Vettel beats Verstappen to Singapore GP pole with Q3 stunner

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Sebastian Vettel produced one of the stand-out qualifying laps of his Formula 1 career to beat Max Verstappen to pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix on Saturday night for Ferrari.

Verstappen had been vying to become F1’s youngest ever pole-sitter in his final qualifying session as a teenager, and looked poised to do so after topping both Q1 and Q2 for Red Bull.

However, Vettel was able to bounce back for Q3, taking provisional pole ahead of Verstappen with his first run before finding yet more time on his last flying lap.

Vettel’s final time of 1:39.491 marked the fastest ever lap around the Marina Bay Street Circuit, giving him his second pole of the year, as well acting as a big victory in the title fight with Lewis Hamilton.

Championship leader Hamilton had a difficult day in the office, ending up fifth overall ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas as both Mercedes drivers struggled to dial in their cars and match Red Bull or Ferrari.

Both Verstappen and Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo were left somewhat disappointed after finishing second and third, having dominated in practice, but nevertheless look in the fight for victory.

Just 24 hours after announcing their break-up for 2018, McLaren and Honda enjoyed a rare high moment under the lights in Singapore by qualifying eighth and ninth, albeit rather aptly behind Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg. And naturally, the other driver in the McLaren, Honda, Toro Rosso and Renault news whirlwind, Carlos Sainz Jr. completed the top 10 for Toro Rosso.

Jolyon Palmer’s weekend of heartache continued in qualifying as he missed out on a place in Q3, finishing P11. Both Force India drivers struggled, with Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon taking P12 and P14 respectively, split by Daniil Kvyat. Romain Grosjean wound up 15th for Haas.

Kevin Magnussen missed out on a place in Q2 by one-tenth of a second, finishing 16th overall ahead of Felipe Massa, who was limited to just one run after hitting the wall early and sustaining a puncture.

Massa’s Williams teammate Lance Stroll followed in P18, while the Sauber pair of Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson propped up the timesheets, more than three seconds off the pace.

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.