Bottas leads tight final F1 practice in Brazil as Ferrari steps up

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Valtteri Bottas topped a tightly-contested final Formula 1 practice session ahead of this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix for Mercedes as Ferrari made a big step forward from Friday’s running to enter the fight at the front of the field.

Four-time world champion Lewis Hamilton led Mercedes to a one-two finish in both FP1 and FP2 on Friday at Interlagos, with rivals Ferrari and Red Bull struggling to put up any kind of real fight at the front of the field.

Ferrari bounced back in FP3 after making tweaks to its cars overnight, with Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen sitting P1 and P3 respectively following their first qualifying simulation runs on the super-soft tire.

Mercedes responded as both Bottas and Hamilton elected to try a second push lap on the super-softs, with the Finn eventually setting the fastest time of 1:09.281 to take P1 at the checkered flag.

Hamilton was left to settle for second after lapping just 0.003 seconds slower, while Raikkonen and Vettel took P3 and P4, with the quartet covered by less than six-hundredths of a second.

With Mercedes and Ferrari poised to fight it out for pole, Red Bull had a tough session as Daniel Ricciardo finished almost a second off the pace in P5, while teammate Max Verstappen took P9 after missing half of the session due to an engine issue and spinning off the track late on.

McLaren led the midfield courtesy of Fernando Alonso, who finished P6 ahead of the Force India pair of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon. Carlos Sainz Jr. took 10th for Renault, finishing 0.1 seconds behind former Toro Rosso teammate Verstappen.

Qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix is live on the NBC Sports app from 11am ET on Saturday.

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.