Hakkinen: Silverstone victory the trigger for Hamilton’s F1 title win

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Formula 1 legend Mika Hakkinen feels that Lewis Hamilton’s dominant home victory at July’s British Grand Prix was the “trigger” for his charge to a fourth world championship in 2017.

Hamilton spent much of the year trailing Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel in the drivers’ championship, but enjoyed a significant momentum swing over the Silverstone race weekend.

While Hamilton dominated the race, taking victory from pole position, Vettel endured a tough day that ended with a late tire failure, leaving him P7 at the checkered flag.

Vettel would take just two more wins following Silverstone, while the victory was the first of six in an eight-race spell for Hamilton that proved crucial in his charge to the championship.

Writing in his Unibet blog, two-time world champion Hakkinen said the importance of the Silverstone victory could not be understated, as well as praising Mercedes’ efforts to capture a fourth straight set of championships.

“Some people think the turning point in Lewis’ season came after the summer break, when he won three grands prix in a row at Spa, Monza and Singapore, but for me his dominant win at home in Silverstone was the trigger,” Hakkinen wrote.

“Behind him the Mercedes team had been working very hard to understand this year’s car, and the best way to get the most from the new regulations.

“When I visited pre-season testing in Barcelona I could see the new cars were very quick – physically larger with bigger tires and a lot more downforce. Definitely more demanding to drive.

“Mercedes worked hard to get the most of their ‘diva’, and this is where the teamwork became so important.

“There are a massive number of people involved in a competitive Formula 1 team and you need everyone at the factory to keep on pushing to the maximum level, making the changes that will solve problems, make the car go faster.”

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.