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.

F1 Preview: 2018 Australian Grand Prix

Photo: Getty Images
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Save for two occasions, in 2006, and 2010, the Australian Grand Prix has served as the season-opening event for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship since 1996, and this weekend’s event will be the 21st time that the city of Melbourne has kicked off the Formula 1 campaign.

The 2018 season is the fifth one of the current hybrid power unit era, the second season of the current aero regulations, and the second under Liberty Media’s guidance.

Last year saw titans Mercedes AMG Petronas and Scuderia Ferrari duel for supremacy for most of the season before Mercedes distanced Ferrari late in the season to take the constructor’s title and the driver’s title, with Lewis Hamilton, who is now tied with Sebastian Vettel on four world championships apiece.

Four drivers on the grid have Formula 1 world championships to their name: Hamilton, Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, and Fernando Alonso. Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley also has a world championship to his name as a two-time titlist in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

So, what can viewers expect from the 2018 curtain-raiser in Australia? A handful of things to watch are below?

2018 Australian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Does Anyone Have Anything for Mercedes?

Only on one day during pre-season testing did a Mercedes driver lead the way – Lewis Hamilton was fastest on the final day of Week 1 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

However, all indications were that was by design, with the team focusing the majority of the second week, if not the entire second week, on long runs with their W09 EQ Power+ chassis.

Such a decision is an ominous one, in that it indicates the team is very comfortable with the amount of speed in the car and did not see a need, or desire, to show their hand during testing.

With that in mind, the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas may yet again have the best and fastest cars, and the team looks poised to potentially make it five constructor’s and driver’s championships in a row.

Ferrari and Red Bull Look to End Mercedes Reign

The biggest threats to Mercedes are undoubtedly Ferrari and Red Bull, the only other teams to win in 2017.

And both teams displayed a lot of pace during testing, particularly in the “one-lap speed” category. Ricciardo set a lap record around the Catalunya circuit during the second week, only for Vettel to supplant that mark later in the week. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen led the way during the final day of testing.

It is unknown how that pace will translate over the course of a race distance. Mercedes appeared to have an edge on both Ferrari and Red Bull over long runs and race simulations, but there is also a theory that neither Ferrari nor Red Bull had their true long-run form on display.

Still, if a team is going to knock off Mercedes, it will likely be either Ferrari or Red Bull.

McLaren on the Rebound?

Put simply, the previous three seasons for McLaren F1 Team were a bit of a disaster. Their partnership with Honda yielded point totals of 27 (2015), 76 (2016), and 30 (2017) in a three-year venture that was defined by poor reliability and underwhelming power.

The relationship hit a boiling point last year and both entities parted ways ahead of the 2018 season, with McLaren signing a new power unit deal with Renault.

Testing went better than in previous years, though the team continued to battle reliability problems. However, all issues appeared to be minor, needling issues rather than more significant, foundational problems, as the other Renault teams (Red Bull and Renault Sport F1 Team) had solid runs with few reliability issues.

The car does appear to have speed in it, so if the reliability problems are behind them, McLaren could be in for a rebound season.

Stuck in the Midfield Again

Formula 1’s battle amongst the midfield is set to be as fierce as ever as a host of a several teams have a chance at being “best of the rest.”

Sahara Force India has been the frontrunner from the the midfield teams each of the last two years, finishing fourth in the constructor’s title in both 2016 and 2017, though if the steady conflict between drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez continues through 2018, it could hamper their efforts significantly.

Renault Sport F1 Team and Haas F1 Team look to improve on their 2017 form, while Toro Rosso is in a new partnership with Honda power units…and has experienced a surprisingly smooth pre-season as Honda’s 2018 platform looks significantly better, with the team enjoying a solid run of testing with few, if any, reliability problems.

Williams Martini Racing and Alfa Romeo Sauber appear to be at the back of the pack entering the season, but both could battle for points finishes if those ahead of them falter.