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MotorSportsTalk’s predictions: Spanish GP

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Formula One returns at the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya, with the race being part of NBCSN’s 13 hours of motorsport coverage this weekend. With on-track rivalries set to resume, the MST team re-kindles its own prediction battle. Who are our hot picks for the race on Sunday?

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race winner: Sebastian Vettel. It seems hard to imagine the Spanish GP has had seven different winners in the last seven years, but right now, it’s hard to pick against the driver who’s riding the hot hand.

Surprising finish: Kimi Raikkonen. Yes, Raikkonen has the chance to win this race for a third different team (McLaren and Ferrari before). But with Lotus technical director James Allison leaving the team just before the race, it is likely to have a negative impact both on Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean at least in the short term.

Most to prove: Pastor Maldonado. Williams plans to improve this race based on some new upgrades. And for defending Spanish Grand Prix winner Pastor Maldonado, improvement will be merely scoring both his and the team’s first points of the season.

Christopher Estrada (@estradawriting)

Race winner: Sebastian Vettel. Barcelona is a proper all-around test for a car’s performance, and that plays right into the three-time defending World Champion’s hands (not to mention teammate Mark Webber’s). One also wonders if Pirelli’s decision to tweak its hard compound tire will benefit the Red Bulls as well…

Surprising finish: Charles Pic. Gonna go toward the back of the grid on this one. Pic was able to get the better of Marussia rival Jules Bianchi in Bahrain, and this weekend, he’ll get more updates on his CT-03. Could bigger gains be on tap for him and Caterham?

Most to prove: Fernando Alonso. After his DRS disaster in Bahrain, Alonso is 30 points back of Vettel in the driver’s championship as he heads to home ground. His countrymen will be counting on him for a big result that can start him toward closing that gap.

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race winner: Mark Webber. Multi-21 aside, Webber will certainly be in the running for some big points in Spain. The Aussie will be keen on answering his critics, and having won in 2010, he is one to watch at the Circuit de Catalunya.

Surprising finish: Nico Hulkenberg. A quiet start to the season for Sauber, but Hulkenberg has shown signs of brilliance (e.g. leading in China). Relying the upgrades come, he could produce another good performance to finish in the top six or so.

Most to prove: Jenson Button. After being given a reality check by his teammate in Bahrain, JB needs to respond fast. McLaren’s upgrades are crucial to him responding well, and he appears to be in a good frame of mind, although the importance of this weekend will not be lost on him.

Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine)

Race winner: Fernando Alonso. Always dangerous on home ground, he’s bound to qualify inside the top four and from there I reckon he’ll make another of his trademarks fast starts to take the lead and control the race.

Surprising finish: Daniel Ricciardo. He’ll prove Bahrain was a blip and get another solid points finish.

Most to prove: McLaren. If they’ve going to have any chance of competing for the titles this year they’ve got to do what Ferrari did at this race last year: Halve the performance deficit to their rivals.

Haas reveals VF-17 ahead of sophomore Formula 1 season

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The Haas Formula 1 team has officially revealed its new car, the VF-17, ahead of its sophomore season on the grid.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas took his eponymous operation into F1 last year, enjoying an impressive first campaign during which it exceeded all expectations.

The VF-16 carried Romain Grosjean to 29 points, including a fifth-place finish in Bahrain and an impressive charge to sixth on debut in Australia.

Its successor, the VF-17, hit the track for the first time on Saturday in Barcelona, with images being leaked on Twitter ahead of its official unveil on Sunday.

The new car retains a similar livery to the VF-16, with the Haas Automation company colors of grey, red and black all featuring, but the chassis itself sports an aggressive new look following an overhaul of the technical regulations.

“I think the pedal box is the same, but all the rest is very different from last year’s car,” Haas team principal Guenther Steiner said.

“You always try to make a faster car, which is normally a lighter car. Now we can put on more ballast and get better weight distribution. The aero is completely new, as are the tires, so we needed to have some built-in adjustability.

“Aesthetically, the car has a more aggressive look. It’s lighter and more aerodynamically efficient. Everything we learned from our first car has been applied to our new car.”

Grosjean will be joined at Haas this year by Kevin Magnussen, who has previously raced for McLaren and Renault and has signed a multi-year deal with the American team.

McLaren MCL32 F1 car gets first track test in Barcelona

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McLaren Formula 1 drivers Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne both got their first taste of the new MCL32 car in Barcelona on Sunday ahead of pre-season testing.

McLaren unveiled the MCL32 on Friday, with the biggest talking point being its striking new orange livery that harks back to the team’s racing roots.

Prior to the start of collective testing on Monday at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, McLaren took advantage of its filming day allowance to turn in some laps on Sunday.

Alonso got the first run in the Honda-powered MCL32 before handing over to Vandoorne in the afternoon.

Red Bull unveils RB13 Formula 1 car ahead of testing

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Red Bull has become the latest team to unveil its new car for the 2017 Formula 1 season, revealing the Renault-powered RB13 on Sunday morning.

Red Bull enters 2017 after returning to the top step of the podium last year, taking two race wins en route to second place in the constructors’ championship.

Daniel Ricciardo finished third in the drivers’ standings behind the dominant Mercedes duo of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, while teammate Max Verstappen became F1’s youngest ever winner at the Spanish Grand Prix.

Both drivers return for 2017 and will pilot the RB13, which sports an aggressive new look following an overhaul of the technical regulations in F1.

Red Bull revealed the new car with a snazzy launch video playing on the number 13, saying that its new RB13 could be “unlucky for some”.

The RB13 – aptly launched at 13:13 local time in Barcelona – is much wider than its predecessor and also sports the ‘shark fin’ engine cover that also appears on a number of the other cars that will race this year. The car also retains the sleek matte look that the team debuted in 2016.

The RB13 will hit the track for the first time on Monday with the start of pre-season testing in Barcelona, Spain.

More to follow.

Otmar Szafnauer confident new F1 rules will create ‘uncertainty’

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 22:  Sergio Perez (L) of Mexico and Sahara Force India and Esteban Ocon of France and Sahara Force India unveil the VJM10 car during the Sahara Force India Formula One team launch at Silverstone on February 22, 2017 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Force India chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer is confident that Formula 1’s new technical regulations will create uncertainty and allow teams to move up the pecking order.

Force India enjoyed its best season in F1 last year, finishing the year fourth in the constructors’ championship behind only Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari.

For 2017, new technical regulations are set to make the cars significantly quicker over a single lap, prompting teams to place great focus on preparing for the upcoming campaign.

Speaking following the launch of Force India’s new car, the VJM10, Szafnauer was positive about the chances that the new rules would bring for both the tam and the sport.

“Whenever you mix up the rules it’s bound to introduce some uncertainty. There’s the opportunity for teams to achieve or underachieve and if that happens it will disrupt the status quo,” Szafnauer said.

“Will the new rules create better racing? Only time will tell. The cars will be significantly faster – not down the straights, but through the corners – but the braking zones will be reduced and that won’t necessarily have a positive impact on overtaking opportunities.

“I certainly like the aesthetics of the new cars because they remind me of the racing cars of old. I’m sure they will look spectacular on the track too.”

When asked about Force India’s objectives for the year ahead, Szafnauer remained coy, but said that the early signs within the team were positive.

“As a team we have some internal objectives, but it’s very hard for me to verbalize those ambitions because it’s impossible to know what our competitors could achieve given such a huge change of regulations,” Szafnauer said.

“What I can say is that we have met our internal targets for the car – for example in terms of the aero numbers we set as the goal for the launch car. How those targets compare to our competitors is impossible to say until we hit the track.”

Force India will enjoy its first public run with the VJM10 car in Barcelona on Monday at the start of collective pre-season testing.