MotorSportsTalk’s predictions: Monaco GP

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Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race winner: Nico Rosberg. Mercedes and Rosberg’s one-lap pace this year is unquestioned. Is this the race where the team finally puts it together from a good grid position to actually bring it home if they don’t chew through the tires as normal? I think so, for the driver who finished second here a year ago.

Surprising finish: Pastor Maldonado. It’s Monaco, where Maldonado has shone in GP2 and his rookie season in F1. Given the traditionally high attrition rates and his ability to maximize his equipment at this circuit, this is as good a place as any for the Venezuelan to finally get on the scoreboard.

Most to prove: Jules Bianchi. Looking to the back of the grid here, but Bianchi has cooled off since his hot start to his F1 career and Caterham’s improvements have brought them forward. Won here in World Series by Renault a year ago, so he’s another who has had some success on the streets of Monte Carlo.

Christopher Estrada (@estradawriting)

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton. Mercedes’ one-lap prowess, along with a Monaco circuit that’s not as harsh on tires as other tracks, means that the former World Champion has a great shot at the win on Sunday.

Surprising finish: Adrian Sutil. Scoreless since the season opener, Sutil has had to deal with some very bad luck. But his car has shown good qualifying form, which is more than half the battle in Monte Carlo.

Most to prove: Pastor Maldonado. With his team still scoreless in 2013, the Venezuelan needs every bit of his Monaco knowledge (which includes wins there in Formula Renault 3.5 and GP2) to help him bring home some needed points.

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race winner: Nico Rosberg. Relying Mercedes have finally solved their rear tire woes, it is hard to look past either Rosberg or Hamilton for the win. After a good showing in practice, Rosberg is currently the favorite to win on Sunday. At the track where qualifying is everything, expect the Silver Arrows to impress.

Surprising finish: Charles Pic. In this case, “surprising” is anything in the top fourteen. Caterham have pulled ahead of Marussia in the development race, and with Monaco’s habit for limiting the number of finishers, this will be the best chance either team has of scoring or getting ahead in the constructors’ championship. If it is anyone from the bottom four, it will be Pic.

Most to prove: Adrian Sutil. There is no denying that Sutil has had some bad luck of late, yet he still has just one score to his name. His good record in Monaco could prove highly valuable this weekend if he is to establish himself as the number one driver within Force India.

Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine)

Race winner: Sebastian Vettel. All the talk is about Mercedes but I have a good old-fashioned hunch about the world champion. I’m tipping him to extend Red Bull’s run of Monaco Grand Prix victories to four in a row.

Surprising finish: Sergio Perez. Won at Monaco in GP2 but it hasn’t come together for him in F1 yet. Let’s see if he can get through qualifying here without a crash this time and give McLaren something to smile about.

Most to prove: Romain Grosjean. His season started to go off the rails at this race last year. His team mate’s been on the podium four times already and Grosjean needs to keep showing he can produce results like the one he had in Bahrain.

Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.