MotorSportsTalk’s predictions: Chinese GP

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Formula 1 heads to the world’s most populous country this weekend for the Chinese Grand Prix, and change is in the air. Stefano Domenicali has left Ferrari, Matteo Mattiacci has taken over, and Red Bull’s appeal has been chucked out. But will some things stay the same on Sunday?

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race winner: Nico Rosberg. You may as well toss a coin between the two Mercedes drivers once again this weekend. My money is on Nico to repeat his win from 2012; both he and Lewis are set to fight it out once again.

Surprising finish: Kevin Magnussen. The straight line speed of the McLaren MP4-29 should suit the Shanghai International Circuit, so it would not surprise me to see the young Dane make the podium for the second time in four races.

Most to prove: Ferrari. Once again, the Italian marque must dust itself down and get back up. The exit of Stefano Domenicali on Monday will certainly make this weekend’s race a strange one for the team, but it must bring home more than the paltry sum of three points that were scored in Bahrain.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race winner: Nico Rosberg. Not quite feeling a Hamilton three-peat and Rosberg will be motivated to avenge his near miss in Bahrain.

Surprising finish: Valtteri Bottas. I like the Williams driver to return to the top-five after he and teammate Felipe Massa were caught out by the safety car timing in Bahrain. The pace is there for the Finn, he just needs the results to back it up.

Most to prove: Ferrari. When Luca di Montezemolo leaves a track early, and the team principal resigns the following week, you can be sure there was a definite correlation between the two. The team may not turn it around overnight but Fernando Alonso enters this race as defending champion and Kimi Raikkonen should be desperate to emerge from his teammate’s shadow. A must-improve weekend for the Scuderia.

Christopher Estrada (@estradawriting)

Race winner: Nico Rosberg. The German still holds the World Championship lead but after losing out to Mercedes teammate/title rival Lewis Hamilton in a brilliant battle at Bahrain, he’ll be itching to return the favor on a track that he’s done well on in the past.

Surprising finish: Nico Hulkenberg. After Sergio Perez’s podium run in Bahrain, it’s time for the Hulk to do the same in China and help establish Force India more firmly in the “best of the rest” status.

Most to prove: McLaren. A double DNF outing in Bahrain needs to be erased by rookie Kevin Magnussen and ex-World Champ Jenson Button, who won at Shanghai in 2010.

Jerry Bonkowski (@JerryBonkowski)

Race winner: Fernando Alonso. It’s time for him to earn his first win of 2014. It’s also time for Ferrari to finally get a win. Granted, Alonso is the defending winner of this race, but that’s not why I’m picking him. It’s time for Ferrari to shine and Alonso is the one who will make it happen.

Surprising finish: Lewis Hamilton. Although Hamilton has won two of the first three races, he’s going to struggle in China. He’ll be lucky to finish in the top 10. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see both Mercedes drivers, Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, struggle in this one.

Most to prove: Kimi Raikkonen. Raikkonen has struggled way too much, way too soon in the first three races. While teammate Fernando Alonso has done well, Raikkonen has looked almost like he’s forgotten how to drive. He needs to show he’s still in the game, lest he fall even further behind after the fourth race. It’s not a Ferrari issue, it’s a Kimi issue.

Audi bids farewell to Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich upon retirement

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Audi bid farewell to its iconic head of motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, at its end-of-season ‘Race Night’ event in Germany on Friday upon his retirement.

Ullrich took over the reins as Audi’s head of motorsport in 1993 and stayed in the role for 23 years, overseeing its arrival in the prototype class of sports car racing and domination of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ullrich stepped down from the position at the end of 2016, handing the reins over to ex-Audi DTM chief Dieter Gass, and attended his final racing event with the German marque at its first works Formula E outing in Hong Kong earlier this month.

Ullrich was honored at the Race Night event on Friday and thanked for his efforts in developing Audi into a force within global motorsport.

“In 566 factory-backed commitments during this period he celebrated 209 victories, 13 of them in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, eleven in the 12-hour race at Sebring and nine in the ‘Petit Le Mans’ at Road Atlanta,” a piece on Ullrich’s tenure for Audi’s website reads.

“31 driver titles in super touring car racing, in the DTM and in the sports prototype category are credited to him. 57 campaigners were Audi factory drivers during Wolfgang Ullrich’s era and he was responsible for 18 new developments of racing cars – an impressive tally.”