MotorSportsTalk’s predictions: Bahrain GP

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As expected, the Chinese Grand Prix proved to be a challenging race to predict, especially after qualifying yielded little information. Eventually, it was Christopher and Keith who managed to correctly predict the race winner, with Tony touting Jenson Button as “sneaking a top five finish”. Can they continue this form for the Bahrain Grand Prix?

You can watch FP2, qualifying and the race on NBC this weekend via http://stream.nbcsports.com/liveextra/, or on their phone or tablet by downloading the apphttp://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/25481063/.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race winner: Fernando Alonso. A former winner in Bahrain and on-form after China, two-in-a-row for the Spaniard would truly assert his championship challenge this year.

Surprising finish: Romain Grosjean. His car issues aside, Grosjean has been cleaner – if slightly anonymous – through three races this year. I’d look for that to change at a track he finished on the podium on a year ago.

Most to prove: Jean-Eric Vergne. Vergne shaded Daniel Ricciardo substantially in China, and this was a race where Daniel made Q3 a year ago. At the very least, needs to outqualify the Australian and prove something to the Red Bull higher-ups.

Christopher Estrada (@estradawriting)

Race winner: Kimi Raikkonen. Five podiums in Bahrain, but no victory? After his runner-up effort in China, it’s high time for the Finn to get rid of his goose egg.

Surprising finish: Nico Rosberg. The German’s had some tough luck early on, but his car is steadily improving. That should keep himself confident to make some noise.

Most to prove: Sergio Perez. Pressure’s on for the young Mexican after he was told to “toughen up” on the track. Let’s see if Perez can get rough when he needs to.

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race winner: Sebastian Vettel. The late change in the tire compounds could give Red Bull an edge. Vettel proved late on in China that the RB9 is very quick indeed, so he will be challenging for the win in Bahrain.

Surprising finish: Valtteri Bottas. Williams may be struggling, but with a few DNFs here and there, they could open their 2013 account in Bahrain. Bottas has looked more likely to score than Maldonado, so he’s my tip for surprising finish.

Most to prove: Mark Webber. Webber’s Chinese GP weekend was the stuff of nightmares, so he needs to bounce back and prove that he is able to compete with Vettel. A good result will also quieten the Porsche-WEC rumors.

Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine)

Race winner: Kimi Raikkonen. I’m tipping the Lotus to do well here. The E21 is great on its rear tires which will count for a lot at a track where traction is vital. Raikkonen’s smoothness and self-discipline will take care of the rest.

Surprising finish: Romain Grosjean. I’m going to concur with Tony. Grosjean is quick, he was terrific here last year and I suspect his change of chassis this weekend will help him get on top of the set-up problems that plagued his first three races.

Most to prove: Sergio Perez. Raikkonen’s criticism of Perez’s driving in China was well off the mark – the McLaren driver didn’t put a wheel out of line before the Lotus hit him. But he can’t be coming home in eleventh place while Button is putting in damage-limiting drives to fifth.

IndyCar 2017 driver review: Sebastien Bourdais

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. A dream start occurred for Sebastien Bourdais and the Dale Coyne Racing team upon their reunion, followed by a nightmare in Indianapolis with a huge crash in qualifying, and ended with a rapid recovery to build confidence for 2018.

Sebastien Bourdais, No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda

  • 2016: 14th Place, 1 Win, Best Start 3rd, 1 Podium, 3 Top-5, 11 Top-10, 24 Laps Led, 11.9 Avg. Start, 11.2 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 21st Place (8 Starts), 1 Win, Best Start 6th, 2 Podiums, 2 Top-5, 5 Top-10, 74 Laps Led, 12.4 Avg. Start, 11.0 Avg. Finish

The 2017 campaign for Sebastien Bourdais upon his return to Dale Coyne Racing will forever be known as both a year of “what could have been” and a year of “what a comeback it was.”

The abnormal season for Bourdais stretched eight races with a three-month break in the middle owing to his own mistake qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, which left him with multiple pelvic fractures and a fracture to his right hip. His car was a rocket ship; but after two laps at 231 mph, Bourdais appeared to over-correct and destroyed the wall at Turn 2 in Indy in a massive 127G impact. It was a horrific looking accident, but one that also saw Bourdais rather lucky to have not been injured worse.

It set forth in motion an incredible recovery that saw Bourdais back testing the Monday after Mid-Ohio, just over two months since the accident, then in race action just over three months later at the 1.25-mile Gateway Motorsports Park oval, and because Bourdais is a regulation badass, he finished in the top-10 straight out of the box. He worked as hard as he did to return earlier than anticipated to avoid an offseason of questions asking if he’d come back and if he’d be strong enough to do so.

The recovery was a welcome story to end the year after the agony at Indy that stopped a potential title run or certainly top-five in points finish in its tracks. A classic Coyne strategy special vaulted Bourdais from last to first and a popular win in his U.S. hometown of St. Petersburg to kick off the year. A second place at Long Beach backed it up and eighth at Barber kept him atop the standings.

But Indy was shaping up to be an important bounce back weekend after Bourdais got taken out in Phoenix, then incurred an engine failure in the IMS road course race. And then, of course, his loud and violent accident qualifying for the ‘500 changed the course of the season.

After three “almost there” but largely unfulfilling years at KV Racing Technology, Bourdais embraced the family atmosphere back at Coyne along with longtime engineers Craig Hampson and Olivier Boisson, determined to continue punching above the team’s weight. He crafted a remarkable story all season and will be keen to fulfill it over the course of a proper full campaign in 2018.