MotorSportsTalk’s predictions: Brazilian GP

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The 2013 Formula One season comes to a close in Brazil this weekend and the curtain will be drawn on the V8 era of the sport ahead of the move to turbocharged V6 engines next year. However, it also marks the last hurrah for Mark Webber, who will retire from the sport after the race on Sunday, and it also sees Felipe Massa race for Ferrari for the final time before his move to Williams. With so much at stake, the final set of predictions in 2013 are particularly difficult… or has Vettel made it a foregone conclusion?

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race winner: Sebastian Vettel. Although my heart wants to pick any of Grosjean given his fine form, Webber in his F1 finale or Massa in his Ferrari sign-off, I simply can’t go against Seb winning a ninth straight.

Surprising finish: Nico Hulkenberg. It’s hard to call anything “the Hulk” does a surprise anymore given his staggeringly good second half of the season. He’s starred at Brazil before with pole in 2010 and the race lead last year. His first career podium finish would be no less than he deserves, and if not, a top-five to round out the season and enter the top 10 in the Driver’s Championship would be a fitting finish.

Most to prove: Pastor Maldonado. After a ragged weekend in Austin and his frankly, rubbish calling out of his team, time for the Venezuelan to assemble a professional weekend that justifies his place on the grid for 2014. 

Christopher Estrada (@estradawriting)

Race winner: Sebastian Vettel. A rainy forecast for Sao Paulo could spice things up, but I still think Vettel and the RB9 will be up to the task in their final run of 2013.

Surprising finish: Felipe Massa. Sunday marks the end of the line for Massa at Ferrari. With the fervent Brazilian fan base on his side, expect to see the two-time Interlagos winner go out firing.

Most to prove: Pastor Maldonado. A dreadful weekend in Austin sets up Maldonado for a pivotal season finale for him as he seeks to cement his place in Formula One.

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race winner: Nico Rosberg. I’m banking on Seb slipping up in the rain somehow and Rosberg being there to capitalize. He has shown good pace so far in practice so the German driver may not be such an outside bet.

Surprising finish: Jenson Button. So much has changed in the year since Button’s last win at Interlagos, but with the weather being as it is, he and McLaren could secure their best result of the season in Brazil.

Most to prove: Pastor Maldonado. The Venezuelan driver needs to tell the other teams “this is why you need to hire me” as doubts about his finance and certainties about his poor attitude circulate.

Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine)

Race winner: Sebastian Vettel. Give away a free win to his team mate? No chance, besides Mark Webber is a proper sportsman and doesn’t want anyone’s charity. Slip up in the rain? This is a driver who scored his first two F1 wins in atrocious conditions. Get lost on his way to the circuit? That might be the best chance his rivals have…

Surprising finish: Giedo van der Garde. If either of Caterham drivers is going to achieve the feat of denying Marussia tenth in the championship – and the coveted income that goes along with it – it will most likely be Van der Garde, who has increasingly held the upper hand over Charles Pic of late.

Most to prove: Paul di Resta. Questions marks surround Di Resta’s future in F1 as he nears the end of his third season. He was put in the shade by team mate Nico Hulkenberg at this race last year, crashing out in the dying stages, and needs an attention-grabbing performance to prove he belongs on the 2014 grid.

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.