2013 Spanish Grand Prix Preview

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The three week break between races is rarely a favorite among the fans, yet it does give teams the opportunity to work on upgrades for their 2013 cars which will debut at this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix. The opening European round of the season could be a good indicator of how the rest of the year will pan out, and every team will be keen on making big gains at the Circuit de Catalunya.

Spanish Grand Prix Talking Points

Red Bull look to bring the killer blow

It would be unfair to say that Red Bull could have the championship sewn up after round five of the championship, but if they do bring significant upgrades to the race and storm to a 1-2 victory, it would be hard to bet against the team for a fourth title. However, the team has struggled in Barcelona before, and if testing acts as a form guide, Mercedes and Ferrari will be the teams to beat.

Life after Allison begins at Lotus

James Allison’s departure may have come as a shock to many, but for Lotus it is a question of getting back to business. Nick Chester has a wealth of experience which should make his move into the technical director role seamless. The question will be whether Kimi Raikkonen is bothered by his absence in Barcelona, with the Finn trying to claim his third win at the circuit.

Spanish hopes rest firmly on Alonso’s shoulders

Fernando Alonso may have won just once at home in Spain, yet his record is an impressive one. Last year, he was edged out by Pastor Maldonado, and he has consistently challenged for the win in front of his fellow countrymen. A few Ferrari upgrades will be required if the Italian team is to bring its killer instinct to the Circuit de Catalunya.

McLaren, Williams with the most to gain

McLaren and Williams have both made dire starts to the season (by their own high standards), so the Spanish Grand Prix is a big turning point for the teams. Relying they bring the upgrades required, both teams could move up the grid. For McLaren, they have not built this up to be a ‘make or break’ weekend, yet it has that aura. The race could also cap off Williams’ fall from grace: Maldonado’s win here last year was dominant; in 2013, the target is to score a point. How things change.

Caterham and Marussia resume battle

Honors even so far in the battle of the backmarkers. Caterham and Marussia have both promised big upgrades, and the teams are also running a reserve driver in FP1 (Kovalainen and Gonzalez respectively). It will be fascinating to see how the tussle pans out, with this being a track that all of the drivers have experience on, although much of their success will rest on the upgrades.

Track: Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona (4.655km)
Laps: 66
Corners: 16
Lap Record: Kimi Raikkonen 1:21.670 (2008)
Tire Compounds: Medium (Option); Hard (Prime)
2012 Winner: Pastor Maldonado (Williams)
2012 Pole Position: Pastor Maldonado (Williams) 1:22.285
2012 Fastest Lap: Romain Grosjean (Lotus) 1:26.250
DRS Zones: Main straight (T16 to T1); T9 to T10

Friday – Free Practice 1: 10:00am local/04:00am ET
Friday – Free Practice 2: 14:00pm local/08:00am ET
Saturday – Free Practice 3: 11:00am local/05:00pm ET
Saturday – Qualifying: 14:00pm local/08:00am ET
Sunday – Race: 14:00pm local/08:00am ET

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/.

Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato welcomes ‘Baby Borg’ to the family

Photos: Michael L. Leavitt
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Takuma Sato cast a big shadow on the world of IndyCar racing last May when he became the first Japanese driver to win the Indianapolis 500.

But there was another shadow of sorts cast along with Sato’s Indy 500 win: he and the prestigious Borg-Warner Trophy, given to each year’s winner of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing, are virtually identical in size.

The Trophy is the same height as Sato, 5 feet, 5 ¾ inches tall. And the respective weight of both the Trophy and Sato are the same: approximately 113 pounds.

Try putting that on a mantle in your house.

2018 BorgWarner Baby Borg Presentation to 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato and team owner Michael Andretti. 17 January, 2018, Detroit, Michigan, USA.
©2018, Michael L. Levitt

That’s why Sato was so happy to receive the Baby Borg Trophy — a miniature version of the Borg-Warner Trophy — Wednesday night in Detroit. It’s much more manageable for the mantle in his house: 18 inches tall and five pounds.

“It’s such an honor to win the Baby Borg finally, eight months after the race, it’s been an unbelievable journey,” Sato told NBC Sports. “It’s an unbelievable feeling to win the 500 and it has just gone on and on. It’s just a significant moment in my life. It’s been fantastic.

“Right now, I haven’t really decided yet (where he’ll put the coveted Baby Borg). It’s going to my home in Indiana right now. But of course, everybody wants to see it. After that, I haven’t decided, but I’m sure it’ll get a special place.”

Even though the Baby Borg is a pint-sized version of the real trophy that was presented to Sato in victory lane in Indianapolis last May, it also has the same meaning as the big trophy and served to get Sato’s excitement pumping to where he’s already counting down the days to the 2018 Indy 500.

And even more important, it will be the first time he returns to Indianapolis as the defending champion.

“(Winning the 500) has changed my life,” Sato told NBC Sports. “But what I do is exactly the same, to try and be as fast as possible when racing.

“But all the environment, the people, all the cheering and being called an Indy 500 champion, I never imagined how deep and how far it goes, just the power and energy that the Indy 500 had.

“I just never realized how much the tradition and the prestigiousness of it. It’s been fantastic and I’m sure when I go back there to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in four months as the defending champion, it’ll be a whole other dimension. I’m sure it’s going to be a whole lot of pressure, but I’m sure to enjoy the moment.”

Sato, who turns 41 on January 28, will return to the 500 this year, but with a new team. He left Andretti Autosport after last season and returned to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, for whom he previously raced for in 2012.

Now that he’s won one Indy 500, Sato wants to make it two in a row.

“It’s a huge, another task and a new dream,” he said. “I’m excited for the new season and to go for another 500 (win), it’s another completely new dimension. Like Michael (Andretti, who he drove for last season) said, obviously, we’ll be competing against each other in the new season, but tonight we celebrated together. I think it’s going to be a real good season for me. I’d love to get another win there, of course.”

2018 BorgWarner Baby Borg Presentation to 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato and team owner Michael Andretti. 17 January, 2018, Detroit, Michigan, USA.
Michael Andretti celebrates his 5 Indy 500 wins as a team owner, and Takuma Sato celebrates his first Indy 500 win
©2018, Michael L. Levitt

But not if Andretti has anything to say about it.

“He’s not allowed to win again,” Andretti laughed while also speaking to NBC Sports.

Sato enjoyed a victory lap of another sort last month when he accompanied the Borg-Warner Trophy to his native Japan for a two-plus week tour of the nation.

It marked the first time in the Trophy’s 82-year existence that it has ever been outside the U.S.

Everywhere Sato and the Trophy went drew large crowds, from Honda Racing “Thanks Day” at the Twin Rings track at Motegi to a visit to Mount Fuji, a meeting with 850 members of Sato’s fan club, and also included a two-day run in the atrium of Honda’s World Headquarters in Tokyo that had fans lined up for hours to see the Trophy and take photos of it and Sato.

“The reaction was just massive,” Sato said. “For myself, it was a dream come true, but at the same time, for a country with that history, it was an unbelievable moment, particularly the first time when Hiro Matsushita did it (drove in the Indy 500 in the 1990s) so many years ago.

“So many Japanese drivers have tried to win such a historic race, I was just so proud to be part of it. The people were really excited. The passion, I’m really particularly happy to bring it to Japan.

“To go to Japan was a massive commitment by from Borg Warner and Honda. So many Japanese fans were able to see it physically and now they’re really looking forward to this year’s Indy 500 again. It was a great moment to us.”