MotorSportsTalk’s predictions: Hungarian GP

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Since its debut in 1986, the Hungarian Grand Prix has been rain affected just once. That’s a 1/27 ‘rain-rate’, or, for the math geniuses out there, less than 4% of the races held at the Hungaroring. Therefore, you would be safe to bet on it being a dry race on Sunday especially with the weather forecast predicting temperatures of beyond 100ºF. If only predictions were so simple for the MST team…

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race winner: Sebastian Vettel. Vettel hasn’t won in Hungary before so he should this weekend. Why, you ask? He hadn’t won in Canada before (check), or in his home country of Germany before (check), or in the month of July before (checked with Germany). And chances are the Red Bull will be able to handle the projected record temps quite well.

Surprising finish: Nico Hulkenberg. The Sauber team claims to have made updates for the Silverstone test and Hulkenberg will be the driver to exploit them. I have a hunch he could better 10th place this weekend, perhaps threaten for seventh or eighth if he makes Q3 on Saturday.

Most to prove: Jean-Eric Vergne. After a two-race stretch where he thrived, including at Monaco, he’s been considerably outshone by teammate Daniel Ricciardo the last two races, and all but dismissed from Red Bull consideration. Time to put up a productive, Ricciardo-beating weekend.

Christopher Estrada (@estradawriting)

Race winner: Kimi Raikkonen. It’s going to take a perfect race to stop Sebastian Vettel, but hot conditions in Budapest could play well for teams that take care of their tires such as Lotus and Ferrari. Raikkonen was a threat all the way to the end in Germany, and I see him jumping to the top spot on the podium this weekend.

Surprising finish: Nico Hulkenberg. Sauber comes to Hungary with a bit of momentum after back-to-back points finishes from “The Hulk” at Silverstone and Nurburgring. With a upgrade package coming up here for his C32, the German driver could find an opportunity for a bigger points haul.

Most to prove: Mercedes. This weekend, the Merc duo has to play catch-up with the field in regards to the new Pirelli tires, which they couldn’t sample in the recent Young Driver’s Test. Rosberg’s had a great 2013 and Hamilton’s won at Hungaroring three times in his career, but this could be a hole they can’t dig out of right now.

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race winner: Fernando Alonso. Just over ten years since his first grand prix victory at the Hungaroring, I can see Alonso repeating this result as the heat plays against Red Bull and into Ferrari’s hands. If anyone can stop Vettel, it is the Spaniard.

Surprising finish: Romain Grosjean. RoGro has had a hard time of it in 2013 so far, but his podium in Germany was a superb result and performance that proved his worth to Lotus. Relying he keeps it on track, a repeat of his 3rd place finish here last season isn’t too far fetched.

Most to prove: Jean-Eric Vergne. Two open snubs from Red Bull, JEV now needs to prove to the F1 world just why he is in the sport. A good result ahead of the expected driver announcement is required to ensure he remains in the sport next season.

Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine)

Race winner: Sebastian Vettel. Of the last three races he’s won two and was leading the other when his car let him down. He was able to keep the Lotus pair behind at the Nurburgring despite a Safety Car and a KERS failure, and I reckon he’ll do the same here.

Surprising finish: Nico Hulkenberg. Sauber seem to be getting a handle on their car, they’ve got some new parts this weekend and I suspect they’ll be happier on the revised tires.

Most to prove: Felipe Massa. I picked him in Germany and he spun out after three laps, so I can hardly choose anyone else!

Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato welcomes ‘Baby Borg’ to the family

Photos: Michael L. Leavitt
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Takuma Sato cast a big shadow on the world of IndyCar racing last May when he became the first Japanese driver to win the Indianapolis 500.

But there was another shadow of sorts cast along with Sato’s Indy 500 win: he and the prestigious Borg-Warner Trophy, given to each year’s winner of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing, are virtually identical in size.

The Trophy is the same height as Sato, 5 feet, 5 ¾ inches tall. And the respective weight of both the Trophy and Sato are the same: approximately 113 pounds.

Try putting that on a mantle in your house.

2018 BorgWarner Baby Borg Presentation to 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato and team owner Michael Andretti. 17 January, 2018, Detroit, Michigan, USA.
©2018, Michael L. Levitt

That’s why Sato was so happy to receive the Baby Borg Trophy — a miniature version of the Borg-Warner Trophy — Wednesday night in Detroit. It’s much more manageable for the mantle in his house: 18 inches tall and five pounds.

“It’s such an honor to win the Baby Borg finally, eight months after the race, it’s been an unbelievable journey,” Sato told NBC Sports. “It’s an unbelievable feeling to win the 500 and it has just gone on and on. It’s just a significant moment in my life. It’s been fantastic.

“Right now, I haven’t really decided yet (where he’ll put the coveted Baby Borg). It’s going to my home in Indiana right now. But of course, everybody wants to see it. After that, I haven’t decided, but I’m sure it’ll get a special place.”

Even though the Baby Borg is a pint-sized version of the real trophy that was presented to Sato in victory lane in Indianapolis last May, it also has the same meaning as the big trophy and served to get Sato’s excitement pumping to where he’s already counting down the days to the 2018 Indy 500.

And even more important, it will be the first time he returns to Indianapolis as the defending champion.

“(Winning the 500) has changed my life,” Sato told NBC Sports. “But what I do is exactly the same, to try and be as fast as possible when racing.

“But all the environment, the people, all the cheering and being called an Indy 500 champion, I never imagined how deep and how far it goes, just the power and energy that the Indy 500 had.

“I just never realized how much the tradition and the prestigiousness of it. It’s been fantastic and I’m sure when I go back there to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in four months as the defending champion, it’ll be a whole other dimension. I’m sure it’s going to be a whole lot of pressure, but I’m sure to enjoy the moment.”

Sato, who turns 41 on January 28, will return to the 500 this year, but with a new team. He left Andretti Autosport after last season and returned to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, for whom he previously raced for in 2012.

Now that he’s won one Indy 500, Sato wants to make it two in a row.

“It’s a huge, another task and a new dream,” he said. “I’m excited for the new season and to go for another 500 (win), it’s another completely new dimension. Like Michael (Andretti, who he drove for last season) said, obviously, we’ll be competing against each other in the new season, but tonight we celebrated together. I think it’s going to be a real good season for me. I’d love to get another win there, of course.”

2018 BorgWarner Baby Borg Presentation to 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato and team owner Michael Andretti. 17 January, 2018, Detroit, Michigan, USA.
Michael Andretti celebrates his 5 Indy 500 wins as a team owner, and Takuma Sato celebrates his first Indy 500 win
©2018, Michael L. Levitt

But not if Andretti has anything to say about it.

“He’s not allowed to win again,” Andretti laughed while also speaking to NBC Sports.

Sato enjoyed a victory lap of another sort last month when he accompanied the Borg-Warner Trophy to his native Japan for a two-plus week tour of the nation.

It marked the first time in the Trophy’s 82-year existence that it has ever been outside the U.S.

Everywhere Sato and the Trophy went drew large crowds, from Honda Racing “Thanks Day” at the Twin Rings track at Motegi to a visit to Mount Fuji, a meeting with 850 members of Sato’s fan club, and also included a two-day run in the atrium of Honda’s World Headquarters in Tokyo that had fans lined up for hours to see the Trophy and take photos of it and Sato.

“The reaction was just massive,” Sato said. “For myself, it was a dream come true, but at the same time, for a country with that history, it was an unbelievable moment, particularly the first time when Hiro Matsushita did it (drove in the Indy 500 in the 1990s) so many years ago.

“So many Japanese drivers have tried to win such a historic race, I was just so proud to be part of it. The people were really excited. The passion, I’m really particularly happy to bring it to Japan.

“To go to Japan was a massive commitment by from Borg Warner and Honda. So many Japanese fans were able to see it physically and now they’re really looking forward to this year’s Indy 500 again. It was a great moment to us.”