MotorSportsTalk’s predictions: German GP

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The Nurburgring is nicknamed the ‘green hell’ as it pushes the drivers to the limit on top of the Eifel mountains, and it has become a firm fixture on the F1 calendar as it alternates hosting the German Grand Prix with Hockenheim. Having last hosted the race in 2011, there isn’t much of a form guide for the race, making the MST picks all the more difficult for this weekend…

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race winner: Mark Webber. Webber’s on good form at the moment and at a track where he scored his first Grand Prix win in 2009, he follows up his British GP podium comments and wins on his teammate’s home turf.

Surprising finish: Adrian Sutil. Of the Germans in the field, the Force India is the car that could punch above its proverbial weight and grab a result, and Sutil seems the guy to do it if he’s on the right tire strategy.

Most to prove: Romain Grosjean. Four straight races without scoring points; he needs a result, desperately.

Christopher Estrada (@estradawriting)

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton. Both he and Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg should have an advantage with the Kevlar-belted tires at the Nurburgring, but it’s time for Hamilton to get on the board in 2013.

Surprising finish: Adrian Sutil. I keep waiting for Force India to get on the podium, and they’ve been very close this year. You have to think support from the home crowd can help Sutil, who has shown solid race pace during the season.

Most to prove: Felipe Massa. Four crashes in the last three weeks is tough on anybody, but even more so for Massa, who could be causing Maranello to lose patience with him. However, he just needs to worry about his own confidence and getting that righted with a solid result.

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race winner: Sebastian Vettel. Never won a race in July and never won his home GP – that ends here. Seb could pounce as the slightly softer compounds brought to the race by Pirelli play against Mercedes, giving him a slightly belated 26th birthday present.

Surprising finish: Felipe Massa. Massa has shown good pace at the Nurburgring before, coming 2nd in 2007 and scoring a podium in the final race before his accident in 2009. Ahead of the tire blowout, he was running 3rd at Silverstone, so the Brazilian driver could be onto something this weekend.

Most to prove: Fernando Alonso. Essentially, he has to prove whether or not Ferrari can still win the world championship. There is no denying his great ability to pull a dog of a car through the field, but Mercedes and Red Bull just look too quick right now.

Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine)

Race winner: Nico Rosberg. Whether by fair means or foul Mercedes are definitely getting into the swing of things at the moment. I reckon the more conservative tyres we’re going to see in the next few races will swing the pendulum further towards them.

Surprising finish: Paul di Resta. Will finally get through Saturday without some misfortune confining him to the back rows.

Most to prove: Felipe Massa. At the beginning of the season he seemed to be back at his best but he’s been a temperamental performer since then. Think of the pillorying a rookie driver would get if they crashed as many times as he has in the last three weekends.

Neuville wins Rally Australia; Ogier takes FIA WRC title

Sebastien Ogier. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) Belgium’s Thierry Neuville won Rally Australia by 22.5 seconds on Sunday as torrential rain added drama to the last day of the last race of the World Rally Championship season.

Neuville entered the final day with an almost 20 second advantage after inheriting the rally lead Saturday when his Hyundai teammate, defending champion Andreas Mikkelsen crashed and was forced to retire for the day.

His lead was halved by Jari-Matti Latvala early Sunday as monsoon-like rain made conditions treacherous on muddy forest stages on the New South Wales coast. The rain stopped on the short Wedding Bells stage where Neuville was almost 5 seconds quicker than his rivals, stretching his lead to 14.7 seconds entering the last stage.

COFFS HARBOUR, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 17: Thierry Neuville of Belgium and Nicolas Gilsoul of Belgium compete in their Hyundai Motorsport WRT Hyundai i20 coupe WRC during Day One of the WRC Australia on November 17, 2017 in COFFS HARBOUR, Australia. (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)

That stage was full of incident. The driver’s door on Neuville’s Hyundai i20 coupe swung open in the middle of the stage and Neuville had to slam it closed as he approached a corner.

Latvala’s Toyota then crashed seconds from the end of the stage, allowing Estonia’s Ott Tanak, in a Ford, to take second place overall and New Zealalnd’s Haydon Paddon, in a Hyundai, to sneak into third.

Sebastian Ogier was fourth after winning the final, power stage but the Frenchman had already clinched his fifth world title before Rally Australia began. Neuville’s win was his fourth of the season, two more than Ogier, and was enough to give him second place in world drivers’ standings for the third time in five years.

Ogier owed his drivers’ title to his consistency: he retired only once and finished no worse than fifth all season.

Neuville admitted the last day was touch and go as the rain made some stages perilous, forcing the cancellation of the second to last stage.

“That was a hell of a ride,” Neuville said. “Really, really tricky conditions.

“I kept the car on the road but it was close sometimes. I knew I could make a difference but I had to be clever. You lose grip, you lose control and the car doesn’t respond to your input.”