MotorSportsTalk’s predictions: British GP

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Historic Silverstone welcomes the Formula One circus for the British Grand Prix this weekend following a three-week break which, despite giving fans nothing to do on Sundays, has allowed the drivers and teams to refresh and prepare to renew battle. The MST writers are no different, bringing you their predictions for this weekend’s race with added gusto, given that it is the ‘home race’ for half of the quartet.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race winner: Sebastian Vettel. So Vettel’s come second and first at tracks where traditionally hasn’t done as well, and now heads back to a typical flowing, fast corner, circuit where an Adrian Newey-designed Red Bull chassis always seems to thrive. The three-time champion is due his first Silverstone win since 2009.

Surprising finish: Jenson Button. With new upgrades projected for the McLaren, the desire to overcome the scoreless Canadian weekend and the support of the home crowd, Button has the necessary elements of surprise in his corner at Silverstone.

Most to prove: Felipe Massa. After three crashes in the last two weekends, Massa needs a clean weekend and to play the good points-supporting role to Fernando Alonso. Ferrari leads Mercedes by only 11 points for second place in the Constructor’s Championship and needs to maximize its results.

Christopher Estrada (@estradawriting)

Race winner: Sebastian Vettel. Judging from Vettel’s dominant victory in Canada, the Red Bull camp may have found a handle on its tire wear issues at high-speed tracks. If so, that’s bad news for the competition heading into Silverstone’s mix of high to medium speed corners.

Surprising finish: Paul di Resta. Silverstone hasn’t been one of Force India’s better tracks in recent years, but Di Resta has been a steady points-scorer this season. You would think he’ll be on his game in front of his fellow Brits.

Most to prove: Kimi Raikkonen. With a new upgrade package ready for him and teammate Romain Grosjean, the Iceman has to return to the championship trail this weekend after setbacks at Monaco and Canada (scoring only three points in those two events).

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race winner: Mark Webber. Perhaps I’m playing up to the fairytale here, but Mark has a great record at Silverstone, winning twice (2010 and 2012). Now that the Porsche deal is done and everything is out in the open, the pressure is off and Webber will be there to bounce back with his first win of the season.

Surprising finish: Valtteri Bottas. Williams may have built a pig of a car, but surely they have to score at some point? It would be great for it to be their 600th GP, and Bottas has outclassed Maldonado all over the park this season. Time for Williams to break their duck.

Most to prove: Nico Hulkenberg. The one-time ‘natural replacement’ for either Webber or Massa has gone cold of late; again, largely due to the car more than anything. Regardless, Hulkenberg needs a strong haul here to remind everyone just why he has been compared to Schumacher in the past.

Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine)

Race winner: Fernando Alonso. He’s having an up-and-down kind of season which is unusual for him. The Ferrari’s treatment of its tyres on high-speed tracks will play into his hands this weekend.

Surprising finish: McLaren. Their season just has to turn around at some point. They’ve tested some new parts ahead of their home race and expect to go better at Silverstone than Montreal.

Most to prove: Giedo van der Garde. Montreal was a pretty horrendous race for him as he collided twice with drivers who were trying to lap his Caterham. He needs to stay out of the stewards’ office this weekend.

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.