F1 Grand Prix of China - Previews

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.

Heineken would like to see Formula 1 race in Vietnam

MONTREAL, QC - JUNE 09:  Heineken announces global partnership with Formula One Management. Gianluca Di Tondo, Senior Director Global Heineken Brand talks in the press conference during previews to the Canadian Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on June 9, 2016 in Montreal, Canada.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Heineken senior global brand director Gianluca di Tondo would like to see Formula 1 stage a race in Vietnam as part of its expansion in the Asia-Pacific region.

Dutch beer company Heineken was announced as a new global partner for F1 over the Canadian Grand Prix weekend, with its branding being visible in Montreal and at the Italian Grand Prix earlier this month.

Heineken is looking to emulate its relationship with Europe’s premier soccer competition, the UEFA Champions League, in F1 through greater interaction with fans and special events.

One such event took place at Monza when a group of F1 drivers took on a Heineken all-star team in a game of soccer on the main straight of the track.

Following the takeover of F1 by American company Liberty Media Corporation, many believe an expansion of the calendar to include new markets is on the cards in the future.

“This is really touching on an important issue for us,” di Tondo said of the F1 calendar in an interview with the official F1 website.

“Heineken is super-strong in Europe – we were ‘born’ in Europe and are a European brand – but the playground for the future is Asia Pacific.

“Asia Pacific is a strategic area for us and having seven races around this area is fantastic, and the passion for Formula 1 in Asia is tangible.

“If there is program to double up in the US that, of course, is very interesting for us as the US is our biggest market. If you take it as a single market, it is still our biggest one.

“In the US it is easier to activate things that become popular – and we are open for discussions to make Formula 1 even more popular together.”

Di Tondo was asked which race he would add to the calendar if he had the choice.

“That is very simple – it is again in Asia: Vietnam,” he said.

“We are very present in Vietnam through a local partner and they were our guests in Monza and they were over the moon.

“So why not have a race in Ho Chi Minh City?”

Vandoorne: No extra pressure at McLaren despite chance of Button comeback

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 13:  Stoffel Vandoorne of Belgium driving the McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team McLaren MP4-31 Honda RA616H Hybrid turbo on track during F1 testing at Silverstone Circuit on July 13, 2016 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Stoffel Vandoorne believes that he will face no extra pressure during his debut Formula 1 season despite there being a chance Jenson Button will return to a McLaren seat for 2018.

McLaren announced over the Italian Grand Prix weekend that Vandoorne would be stepping up to a full-time seat for the 2017 season after spending the past year in a reserve role.

The Belgian will partner Fernando Alonso following Jenson Button’s decision to take a year out from F1 in 2017.

However, should both the driver and team be willing, Button is able to return to a McLaren seat for 2018, appearing to put pressure on Vandoorne should he not perform. The 2015 GP2 Series champion does not see it this way, though.

“No, I don’t see that situation as extra pressure. I have a long-term deal with McLaren,” Vandoorne told the official F1 website.

“Hopefully we soon will be able to get back to the competitive level where McLaren used to be.

“In terms of next year, yes it is a special structure, but I think it is one of the best. Myself and Fernando are going to race, and then it is good to keep Jenson as well.

“He is the most experienced driver in F1 now and he will be involved with the team, be it in the simulator or coming to a few races.”

“I am fully thinking about the opportunity that I get – there is no room for non-issues. I want to succeed and am very much looking forward to that.”

Marquez fights back from poor start to win Aragon MotoGP race

ALCANIZ, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 24:  Marc Marquez of Spain and Repsol Honda Team rounds the bend during the qualifying practice during the MotoGP of Spain - Qualifying at Motorland Aragon Circuit on September 24, 2016 in Alcaniz, Spain.  (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)
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Honda rider Marc Marquez took a big step towards winning his third MotoGP world title in 2016 after fighting back from a poor start to win the Aragon Grand Prix on Sunday.

Marquez was expected to walk away with the race after dominating practice and qualifying, only for a mistake on lap three to cause the pole-sitter to drop to fifth place.

Suzuki rider Maverick Vinales took up the mantle at the head of the pack with future Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi in tow as Marquez began his fightback.

The Spaniard deposed Andrea Dovizioso on lap five before picking off title rival Jorge Lorenzo two laps later.

Vinales lost the lead to Rossi on lap nine before slipping past Marquez and Lorenzo one lap later, with the lead finally falling to Marquez on lap 12.

From there, Marquez controlled proceedings at the front of the pack, pulling out an advantage of 2.7 seconds come the checkered flag.

Lorenzo bounced back from a crash in Sunday morning warm-up to finish second, his best result since the Italian Grand Prix in May, while Rossi rounded out the podium positions.

Marquez’s fourth victory of the season sees his lead extend to 52 points over Rossi, meaning he could mathematically wrap up the title at the next race in Japan.

Vinales finished the race fourth for Suzuki ahead of Cal Crutchlow and Dani Pedrosa, while the Espargaro brothers crossed the line seventh and eighth, Aleix ahead of Pol. Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl rounded out the top 10.

Nicky Hayden’s one-off return to MotoGP with the Marc VDS team saw him pick up a solitary point for P15, the American rider standing in for the injured Jack Miller.

MotoGP returns in three weeks’ time at the Twin Ring Motegi in Japan on October 16.

Binder clinches Moto3 world title at Aragon with four races to spare

ALCANIZ, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 24:  Brad Binder of South Africa and Red Bull KTM Ajo heads down a straight during the qualifying practice during the MotoGP of Spain - Qualifying at Motorland Aragon Circuit on September 24, 2016 in Alcaniz, Spain.  (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)
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Brad Binder became South Africa’s first motorcycle racing world champion since 1980 by clinching the Moto3 title at Motorland Aragon on Sunday.

Binder, 21, made his debut on the MotoGP ladder back in 2011 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the 125cc class, which became known as Moto3 the following year.

Binder scored his first podium in 2014 with Mahindra, but did not ascend to the top step until this year’s Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez.

The result sparked a run of three straight victories that was bookended by four podiums, vaulting the KTM rider into the championship lead.

Further wins followed at Silverstone and Misano, leaving Binder on the brink of sealing the championship at Motorland Aragon on Sunday.

After qualifying seventh, Binder became embroiled in the battle for victory at the front of the pack, taking the lead on the final lap.

Despite running wide at the final corner and losing out to Jorge Navarro by 0.030 seconds in a sprint to the line, second place was enough to clinch Binder the championship.

Binder becomes South Africa’s first world champion in motorcycle racing since Jon Ekerold in 1980.

Binder will make the move up to Moto2 in 2017 with KTM, and will undoubtedly have his sights on moving up to the premier class of motorcycle racing, MotoGP, not long after that.