Mercedes clinches fourth straight F1 constructors’ title at USGP

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Mercedes clinched its fourth straight Formula 1 constructors’ championship in Sunday’s United States Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton took his ninth victory of the season at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas.

Hamilton produced a controlled display at the front to lead Mercedes to victory, while teammate Valtteri Bottas struggled to manage his tires late on, dropping to fifth place at the checkered flag.

The result was nevertheless enough to secure Mercedes the title as it outscored the rival Ferrari team by two points on Sunday.

Mercedes has spent much of the season neck-and-neck with Ferrari for pace, but the gap in the constructors’ championship has gradually swelled through the year, with the gap standing at 145 points heading to Austin.

Ferrari had to outscore Mercedes by 17 points in the USGP just to keep the title race alive to Mexico, but fell short in Austin as the Silver Arrows wrapped up a fourth successive teams’ title with three races to spare.

Mercedes returned to F1 with a works team in 2010, and clinched its first pair of titles four years later upon the introduction of the new V6 turbo power units.

An overhaul of the technical regulations for 2017 saw Ferrari draw much closer to Mercedes at the front of the pack, but the German marque has dug deep to lead the constructors’ standings since Canada, taking 11 wins and 13 poles so far this season.

The result sees Mercedes become just the fourth team in history to win four straight constructors’ titles, following in the footsteps of Red Bull (2010 to 2013), Ferrari (1999 to 2004) and McLaren (1988 to 1991).

It is also the sixth constructors’ title to have been won by Mercedes power, with the works team’s quartet of crowns being joined by Brawn and McLaren’s titles in 2009 and 1998 respectively.

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

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images
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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.