Monaco F1 GP Auto Racing

MotorSportsTalk’s Predictions: Monaco GP

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It’s the big one, folks. The Monaco Grand Prix is unquestionably the yearly highlight on the Formula 1 calendar, mixing the glitz and glamor with one of the most exciting races of the year.

Monaco is widely regarded as the litmus test to see whether or not a driver is made of champion material. To firmly establish yourself as one of the greats in the sport, this race is one that you need to win. Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel all have, but unless you’re driving a Mercedes, it’s unlikely you’ll be tasting the winner’s champagne this year.

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race winner: Nico Rosberg. I still maintain that Nico will win the title, and Monaco is the perfect place for him to stop Lewis’ winning streak. He won here last year, and if he can stick it on pole on Saturday, I see no reason why he can’t do it again in 2014.

Surprising finish: Jules Bianchi. Perhaps it’s the optimist in me, but if we get a crazy race and a number of retirements, Jules could yet better Max Chilton’s current top result of P13, or even nick a point. Maybe a bit of a longshot, but if it is going to happen anywhere, it’s Monaco.

Most to prove: Sauber. They’ve been dreadful this year, and really could do with a result in Monaco. Adrian, Esteban, just keep it out of the walls and you should be okay. Seriously in need of points, though.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton. Although the track occasionally throws up a surprise – teammate Nico Rosberg winning last year wasn’t an obvious pick, and guys like Jarno Trulli and Olivier Panis have won here in the past – I don’t see the weekend shaping up as anyone being able to beat the Mercedes. Hamilton’s roll is hard to stop at the moment, as is the W05 chassis.

Surprising finish: Romain Grosjean. Lotus seems to have turned the corner performance wise starting in Spain and as my colleague Luke wrote over the weekend, this is a big weekend for Romain to show what he can do at a track where he has a checkered past. If a top-five is possible for Lotus, it’s going to be via “RoGro,” and not Pastor Maldonado (even though he’s run well here in the past, too, he’d be a bigger surprise finishing well to me).

Most to prove: McLaren. This is the marquee event. This is a marquee team. You haven’t scored in three races lads. Get on with it. 

Christopher Estrada (@estradawriting)

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton. Mercedes will triumph once again in Monte Carlo, but this time, it will be Hamilton drinking the champagne after his fifth consecutive Grand Prix win.

Surprising finish: Romain Grosjean. Lotus and Grosjean finally got on the board last time out in Spain, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Frenchman put his 2013 Monaco crash with Daniel Ricciardo behind him with another points run.

Most to prove: Felipe Massa. As I wrote on Monday, his 2013 visit to Monaco for Ferrari was dreadful and he’s trying to get himself sorted at Williams. A good finish here should boost his confidence considerably.

Jerry Bonkowski (@JerryBonkowski)

Race winner: Nico Rosberg. It’s getting harder and harder to pick against the Mercedes juggernaut of Rosberg and teammate Lewis Hamilton. So as the old saying goes, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Look for another 1-2 Mercedes finish with Rosberg crossing the finish line ahead of Hamilton.

Surprising finish: Kimi Raikkonen. Old habits die hard. We’ve been waiting all season thus far for Kimi to get moving upward in the standings, but he just seems to have hit a wall (literally, not figuratively). Will Monaco be Kimi’s breakout and breakthrough race? We hope so. We’ll keep riding this horse until it finally gets to galloping to a podium finish. With teammate Fernando Alonso doing so well, there’s no reason Kimi why can’t follow suit.

Most to prove: Felipe Massa. Sitting 12th in the standings and with only 12 points thus far this season, we would have thought Massa would be ranked a lot higher than he is heading into Monaco. Massa is far better than his ranking indicates. While we’re not expecting a miracle such as a win, a podium finish would do wonders. The problem is he has a number of other drivers ranked ahead of him that will likely beat him to the podium.

Hunter-Reay, Rahal complete Acura NSX GT3 lineup at Rolex 24

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Photos: Acura
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Verizon IndyCar Series stars Ryan Hunter-Reay and Graham Rahal will complete the eight-driver lineup for the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona in the pair of Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3s.

These two drivers join the previously announced six-pack of Andy Lally, Ozz Negri, Jeff Segal, Katherine Legge, Mark Wilkins and Tom Dyer. The first four are the full-season drivers while Wilkins and Dyer are the third drivers for the full Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup slate of races. Daytona, as a 24-hour race in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship schedule, makes up the longest round where four drivers are expected for most entries.

Exact lineups are yet to be determined. Both Hunter-Reay (No. 28 DHL Honda) and Rahal (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda) run Hondas in IndyCar, and switch from their previous teams in IMSA. Hunter-Reay was third driver in the No. 90 Visit Florida Racing Corvette DP last year, Rahal the fourth driver in one of the BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLMs.

Both Hunter-Reay and Rahal will test the car at Daytona next week.

“We’re thrilled to have Graham and Ryan join the Michael Shank Racing effort at Daytona,” said Art St. Cyr, president of Honda Performance Development (HPD), the racing arm for Acura in North America. “The debut of the NSX GT3 at the prestigious Rolex 24 will mark the return of the Acura brand to IMSA sports car competition. The addition of Graham and Ryan to an already excellent driver lineup, coupled with the experience provided by Michael Shank and his team, will make the NSX GT3 a serious contender for the GTD class victory at Daytona.”

Jenson Button receives honorary degree from University of Bath (VIDEO)

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 25:  Jenson Button of Great Britain and McLaren Honda in the garage during practice for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 25, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Jenson Button became ‘Dr. Jenson Button’ earlier this week when he was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Bath in England.

Button, 36, made what looks set to be his final Formula 1 appearance at the end of last month in Abu Dhabi, drawing the curtain on a 16-year stint at the pinnacle of motorsport.

The Briton won the F1 drivers’ championship in 2009 and was runner-up in 2011, as well as winning 15 grands prix.

Button added to his list of achievements by picking up an honorary degree in engineering from the University of Bath earlier this week.

“I didn’t go to university and work hard in my early years, but I would say that a lot of my achievements in motorsport are down to my engineering understanding of a racing car,” Button said when addressing the audience at the ceremony.

Button does have a contract to race for McLaren in 2018 should both he and the driver be keen, but looks unlikely to return.

Button does remain keen to race occasionally through 2017, expressing an interest in racing in Super GT and rallycross.

Williams expecting Stroll to make mistakes through debut F1 season

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 24:  Lance Stroll of Canada and Williams talks in the Paddock  during previews for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 24, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Williams Formula 1 chief technical officer Pat Symonds says he expects 18-year-old Lance Stroll to make mistakes during his rookie season in 2017.

Williams announced last month that Stroll would be stepping up from Formula 3 to a full-time F1 seat for 2017, replacing the retiring Felipe Massa.

Stroll has an impressive track record through his junior racing career, becoming the youngest ever FIA F3 champion in 2016.

However, his on-track actions have caught attention for the wrong reasons at times, with the Canadian receiving a race ban in June 2015 for causing an accident.

Speaking to Reuters, Symonds said that Williams is braced for Stroll to make mistakes during his rookie campaign as he gets to grips with life in F1.

“Of course he’ll make mistakes and we’ll be repairing cars. These things happen as part of the process,” Symonds said.

“If you look at his Formula 3 career, in 2015 he was having quite a few accidents in that. The Monza one is just staggering.”

However, Symonds has no doubt in Stroll’s talent, believing the youngster to have proven himself during his two-year stint in F3.

“He hasn’t won that championship with anything other than a lot of skill and maturity,” Symonds said.

“For a guy that young, he’s driven really well in pretty well every condition. He’s raced well, he’s led at the front. He’s come through the field a bit, he’s driven well in the wet.

“He is the real deal.”

Besides his F3 commitments, Stroll has also completed an extensive F1 testing program through 2016 that saw him conduct running in a 2014-spec Williams in order to prepare him for his race debut in Australia next March.

Ecclestone: Rosberg not among F1 greats, ‘a world champion and nothing else’

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 27:  Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP celebrates finishing second on the podium and winning the World Drivers Championship during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 27, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Formula 1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone does not believe that the recently-retired Nico Rosberg will be remembered as one of the sport’s all-time greats, saying that the German is “a world champion and nothing else”.

Rosberg won his maiden F1 drivers’ championship two weeks ago in Abu Dhabi before sensationally announcing his immediate retirement from racing just five days later.

The news came as a shock to the F1 community, including Ecclestone, and has raised questions about the legacy that Rosberg will leave.

Speaking to Press Trust of India, Ecclestone said that he would not place Rosberg in the same realm as many of his peers who have won multiple titles, including Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso.

“Let’s just say he is a world champion. The other names that you mentioned have obviously won more than a few times and have achieved more,” Ecclestone said.

“So I would just call Nico a world champion and nothing else.”

Ecclestone did concede that not having the defending World Champion on the F1 grid in 2017 would not help the sport, a situation that has not arisen since 1994 following Alain Prost’s final title win.

“[He’s] not as popular as Lewis but Nico was a very popular driver,” Ecclestone said.

“So his absence is certainly not good for Formula 1.”

Rosberg became the fourth driver to retire after winning the World Championship, following in the footsteps of Prost (1993), Jackie Stewart (1973) and Mike Hawthorn (1958).