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.

Formula One: Recapping the past week’s news

Photo: Getty Images
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While the FIA Formula 1 World Championship is still two months away from beginning its 2018 season, this past week did bring about news items that filled out the 2018 grid and shed some light on individual team and car launches as the season-opening Australian Grand Prix draws closer.

Below is a recap of F1 news from this past week:

Williams Signs Sirotkin for 2018 Drive, Names Kubica as Reserve Driver

The saga of the second seat at Williams Martini Racing was finally resolved early on in the week, with former Renault Sport F1 Team test driver Sergey Sirotkin officially confirmed as a teammate to the incumbent Lance Stroll in 2018.

The announcement concluded months of speculation that saw multiple drivers test for the team in an auditioning capacity. Most notably, Robert Kubica looked to be a main contender for the seat before Sirotkin emerged as the favorite.

However, Kubica, who has not raced in Formula 1 since a devastating rally accident in 2011 left him with brutal injuries to his right arm, was named as a reserve and development driver for the team.

This announcement also completes the 2018 Formula 1 driver lineup, with all 11 teams having their seats now filled. Among those who were left without F1 drives are Paul Di Resta, who drove for Williams at the Hungarian Grand Prix in relief of Felipe Massa and even tested with them during the Winter months, and Antonio Giovinazzi, who filled in for Pascal Wehrlein at the Australian and Chinese Grands Prix.

Former Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat is also without a race seat for 2018, but did sign on with Scuderia Ferrari as a development driver.

Mercedes, McLaren Reveal Dates for Their 2018 Car Launches

While most teams have not yet released dates for when their 2018 cars will be publicly launched, three notables have.

Mercedes AMG Petronas will introduce its 2018 challenger on February 22nd, the same day Ferrari is doing so, while McLaren will unveil its car one day later on the 23rd.

Testing will commence on February 26th at Circuit de Catalunya.

Follow@KyleMLavigne