2013 Japanese Grand Prix Preview

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Japan may be nicknamed “the land of the rising sun” yet it marks the beginning of the end of the 2013 Formula One season and potentially the end of the championship race itself. Sebastian Vettel can become world champion for the fourth time at Suzuka on Sunday if results go his way. Having won this race on three occasions since 2009 and openly admitting that it is his ‘favorite’ circuit, it is difficult to see the German driver not claiming a fifth consecutive win. However, Fernando Alonso can force Red Bull to postpone their celebrations until the Indian Grand Prix at the end of the month by finishing in the top eight on Sunday.

Japanese Grand Prix Talking Points

History suggests that it could happen…

Alonso has failed to finish outside of the top eight just once this season when he retired on lap two of the Malaysian Grand Prix in March. Therefore, it’s difficult to see him giving Vettel the chance to win the title at Suzuka, but history suggests otherwise: in 2012, Vettel won the race as Alonso retired at the first corner. It’s unlikely the German driver will seal the deal this weekend, yet it’s not totally inconceivable.

Mercedes look to show true colors

Mercedes’ proposed resurgence in the past few races has fallen flat on its face, with both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg suffering from car troubles in Korea. However, their pace was certainly encouraging, and the team will be hoping to return to the podium at Suzuka this weekend as the battle for second place in the constructors’ championship hots up.

RoGro to continue his good form?

Since his embarrassing crash at Monaco, Romain Grosjean has been on a scintillating run of form that has secured his place at Lotus for 2014. And who can blame them for retaining him? In Korea, he had second place all to himself until the first safety car period allowed teammate Kimi Raikkonen to pass. Nevertheless, it was a mature and impressive performance from the Frenchman who will be looking for a repeat performance in Japan.

How incredible can the Hulk be?

Nico Hulkenberg’s performance in Korea last time out proved to the F1 world just what an incredible talent he is, holding off three world champions across the course of the race and eventually finishing in an amazing fourth place. Although a repeat of Kamui Kobayashi’s podium finish for Sauber in last year’s Japanese Grand Prix may be a step too far, Hulkenberg can edge closer to the seat at Lotus with another strong performance at Suzuka.

Massa and Sutil need to redeem themselves

Felipe Massa and Adrian Sutil hit the headlines during the Korean Grand Prix last weekend for all of the wrong reasons. Both drivers spun at turn three with the Force India’s move ending Mark Webber’s race and bringing out the rogue jeep. Therefore, a solid performance is required in Japan to prove that they are worthy of seats on next year’s grid. Rewind twelve months, and finishing second here saved Massa’s Ferrari career. This time, it’s too late for Felipe at Maranello, but there are still five races in which he can prove to the F1 world that he still has what it takes.

Track: Suzuka Circuit
Laps: 53
Corners: 18
Lap Record: Kimi Raikkonen 1:31.540 (2005)
Tire Compounds: Medium (option); Hard (prime)
2012 Winner: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
2012 Pole Position: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1:30.839
2012 Fastest Lap: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1:35.774
DRS Zones: Main Straight (T18 to T1)

Friday – Free Practice 1: 21:00pm ET (Thursday)
Friday – Free Practice 2: 01:00am ET (LIVE on NBCSN)
Saturday – Free Practice 3: 22:00pm ET (Friday)
Saturday – Qualifying: 01:00am ET (LIVE on NBCSN)
Sunday – Race: 02:00am ET (LIVE on NBCSN)

MRTI: Sunday Barber Notebook

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Mother Nature intervened heavily on Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park, and the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires both completed their second races of the weekend on a wet track.

Indy Lights saw Andretti Autosport’s Pato O’Ward complete the weekend sweep – he won Race 1 on Saturday – while Pro Mazda had a wet and wild race of survival that saw a pair of leaders go off, giving way to another first-time winner in Pro Mazda at the end of the day.

Reports on both races are below.

Indy Lights: Race 2 Victory Completes Dominant Weekend for O’Ward

Pato O’Ward celebrates his Race 2 victory at Barber Motorsports Park. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Andretti Autosport’s Pato O’Ward completed a perfect weekend at Barber Motorsports Park by claiming victory in Indy Lights Race 2 on Sunday.

Officials were forced to move the race up to 10:45 a.m. local time (11:45 ET) due to weather, and Race 2 began under a rain shower.

However, it did not deter O’Ward one bit, who rocketed off into the lead from the pole, and was never headed on his way to winning by over five seconds.

In addition to winning both races, O’Ward led every lap in both races, completing a weekend of utter dominance for the 18-year-old native of Mexico.

Juncos Racing’s Victor Franzoni came home in second, his best finish since moving up to Indy Lights this year, with Andretti Steinbrenner Racing’s Colton Herta rounding out the podium.

The Belardi Auto Racing duo of Aaron Telitz and Santi Urrutia finished fourth and fifth, with Telitz finally finishing a race after only completing a combined four corners in the first three races of the season.

Urrutia, meanwhile struggled somewhat and faded to fifth after starting third.

Andretti’s Dalton Kellett and Ryan Norman and Juncos’ Alfonso Celis Jr. rounded out the field in sixth, seventh, and eighth.

Results are below.

Pro Mazda: Harrison Scott Survives the Rain to Take First Pro Mazda Win

Harrison Scott and RP Motorsports celebrate victory in Pro Mazda Race 2 at Barber Motorsports Park. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

RP Motorsport’s Harrison Scott managed to survive a track that started out damp, began drying out, and then became very wet during a downpour in the final laps to win in Pro Mazda Race 2 from Barber.

Scott, who started second, was able to pass Exclusive Autosport’s Parker Thompson, the polesitter and Race 1 winner, on the inside entering Turn 5 on Lap 2, with Thompson running slightly off track on corner exit and falling back to third, with Team Pelfrey’s Andres Gutierrez going through into second.

Scott, Gutierrez, and Thompson stayed close the rest of the way, and Gutierrez even managed to make a nifty outside pass on Scott in Turn 5 on Lap 9 to take the lead.

However, rain, which hit the track briefly and stopped about 30 minutes before the race started, returned in the second half of the race, and progressively got heavier.

It all came to a head on Lap 21, when the slick conditions sent Gutierrez off course in Turns 7 and 8. He rejoined the track, but fell back to seventh, allowing Scott back into the lead.

Race Control quickly threw a caution as a result of the conditions, and the race finished under yellow, with Scott taking the checkered flag for his first Pro Mazda win.

Behind Scott, Thompson came home in second, with Juncos Racing’s Carlos Cunhas in third. Cunha’s teammate Rinus VeeKay was fourth, with BN Racing’s David Malukas rounding out the Top 5.

Of note: Cape Motorsports’ Oliver Askew was one of a couple drivers who pitted for rain tires under the late yellow, gambling that the race may go back to green – he was running tenth at the time. However, because the race never went back to green, Askew was relegated to 12th at the end.

Results are below.

Note: Check back later for driver quotes.

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