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.

Recap: Green Bay Packers QB Brett Hundley takes in Kohler Grand Prix

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When professional athletes decide to experience sports outside of the one where they make their living, it never ceases to entertain. Case and point: Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Hundley.

The 24-year-old Hundley spent the weekend at Road America, taking in the Kohler Grand Prix. His time at the facility began on Thursday, where he first paid a visit to Team Penske driver Will Power, who gave him a quick tutorial.

Will Power shows Brett Hundley a steering for a Verizon IndyCar Series machine. Photo: IndyCar

The next part of Hundley’s day saw him take a two-seater ride with none other than Mario Andretti. And, unsurprisingly, it left a big impression.

Mari Andretti takes Brett Hundley around Road America in the Verizon IndyCar Series two-seater. Photo: IndyCar

“The first lap, I’m screaming, and it’s the warm-up lap! And then the second lap: I’m just bright-eyed, going through corners. I give so much respect, that’s an awesome sport, man!” Hundley said in a media debrief afterward.

However, the day was not finished. Later on, Hundley showed off his arm strength and throwing accuracy by attempting to throw a football through the passenger side window of a moving Chevrolet Corvette. And while it took a few attempts, he eventually hit his mark.

Hundley stayed through Sunday and dawned a photographer’s bib in order to take in more of the action.

In fact, he even inadvertently photobombed second-place finisher Josef Newgarden during his post-race interview.

A video chronicling Hundley’s visit can be viewed here and additional photos from his weekend can be found on his Instagram page.

 

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Merhi confirmed for WEC return with Manor at the Nürburgring

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CEFC Manor TRS Racing has confirmed that Roberto Merhi will return to the FIA World Endurance Championship for next month’s 6 Hours of Nürburgring, replacing Jean-Eric Vergne.

Merhi previously raced for Manor in both Formula 1 and the WEC, making his most recent appearance with the British marque at last November’s 6 Hours of Bahrain.

Merhi’s last racing outing came in the Formula 2 double-header in Spain and has flirted with a move into Formula E, but was confirmed on Wednesday to be making his racing return at the Nürburgring on July 16.

Merhi will deputize for Vergne in the No. 24 Oreca 07 Gibson while the Frenchman is in New York for the city’s inaugural Formula E event.

FIA to re-examine Vettel/Hamilton Baku F1 clash

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The FIA has confirmed that it will re-examine the clash between Formula 1 title rivals Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton in Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix to see if further action is warranted.

Vettel and Hamilton made contact twice behind the safety car in Baku, with the second incident deemed to be an act of dangerous driving on Vettel’s part.

The FIA stewards in Baku handed Vettel a 10-second stop/go penalty for the clash – the harshest available penalty besides disqualification – but faced calls to issue a stricter punishment post race.

Hamilton said that the incident set a dangerous precedent for F1 and wider motorsport, but Vettel believed his rival deserved a penalty for allegedly brake testing him.

On Wednesday, the FIA confirmed that it would be re-examining the incident in a meeting on July 3, with a verdict set to be delivered ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix.

“Following the recent incident at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in which Car 5 (Sebastian Vettel) was involved in a collision with Car 44 (Lewis Hamilton), on Monday 3rd July, the FIA will further examine the causes on the incident in order to evaluate whether further action is necessary,” a short statement from the FIA read.

“A statement regarding the outcome of this process will be made available before the upcoming Austrian Grand Prix (7-9 July).”

Wickens not interested in full-time IndyCar switch despite practice run

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Robert Wickens is not interested in making a full-time switch to the Verizon IndyCar Series in the near future despite his practice run-out at Road America last weekend for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Mercedes DTM driver Wickens was called up for Friday practice at the KOHLER Grand Prix in the No. 7 Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda after Mikhail Aleshin was unable to make it in time due to immigration issues.

Aleshin was able to return to the United States in time for Saturday’s final practice and qualifying at Road America, with Wickens stepping back down.

The Canadian got his first taste of an Indy car in a car swap with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe in March, paving the way for his practice appearance at Road America.

However, Wickens is not looking to make a full-time move over to IndyCar anytime soon despite enjoying his run-out, with his focus lying with DTM.

“Not really, to be honest,” Wickens said when asked if IndyCar was something he would like to move into in Mercedes’ ‘Tales from the Paddock’ press newsletter.

“I just want to race cars. That’s the main thing. I have no urge to leave the DTM at the moment.

“Everything is going well, and I’m really happy with Mercedes.”

Wickens also went into detail about how rapidly things moved with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, having only been told the day before practice that he was required for the running.

“I planned on having a relaxing weekend at home, but on Thursday afternoon I got a call from Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, which is the team that we did the ride swap with involving James Hinchcliffe back in April,” Wickens said.

“They asked if I could go to Road America and fill in for Mikhail Aleshin who had immigration issues. Fortunately, Toto [Wolff] was happy for me to do it and I was able to jump on a plane and get to Wisconsin.

“We didn’t get to the hotel until about 10pm on Thursday, and Free Practice 1 was on Friday morning very early. It took some getting used to.

“The practice itself was fun. The track was really good. It would be amazing to have a DTM race there one day.

“I definitely wanted to do the full weekend, but the full-time driver got his immigration stuff sorted and he made it to the race track by Friday night. My duties were finished, but it was still a really fun Friday.”