MotorSportsTalk’s Predictions: British GP

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Two weeks on from Mercedes’ return to the top of the F1 perch, Lewis Hamilton prepares for his home race – the British Grand Prix – this weekend at Silverstone.

His victory in 2008 was one of the most notable home wins the sport has known, and the image of his silver and red McLaren fighting through the spray remains a symbol of his championship winning year. Now, things are a little less red with Mercedes, but with the quickest car on the grid underneath him, he’ll know that this marks his best chance since then of winning at home.

Standing in his way is teammate Nico Rosberg. The German driver currently leads the drivers’ championship by 29 points ahead of Hamilton, and a win here could put him in very good stead before his home race at Hockenheim. So which Mercedes will do it this weekend? The MST team shares its thoughts…

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton. “Home advantage” is not so clear in Formula 1, but memories of Lewis’ incredible victory back in 2008 still linger. With a roaring home crowd, Silverstone could see the momentum swing right back in his favor.

Surprising finish: Pastor Maldonado. F1’s bad boy will be hoping to score his first points of the year at the British Grand Prix this weekend, having secured his best result of the season in Austria. Lotus shouldn’t be at as much of a disadvantage this time around, so relying he keeps it out of the wall, he could secure a top ten finish.

Most to prove: Kimi Raikkonen. With a best finish of seventh so far this season, Kimi needs a result soon. Everyone’s favorite Finn has been pretty anonymous so far this year; this weekend he needs a top five finish, as hard as that may be. Note that I didn’t mention Sauber this week!

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton. Due for some home cooking and with his best shot to win his home Grand Prix since his title-winning year in 2008. A hungry Hamilton is a dangerous one.

Surprising finish: Fernando Alonso. Even though the car isn’t nearly on par with the Mercedes power unit entries, I have a sneaking hunch Fernando is going to pull a trademark rabbit out of his hat at this circuit. Sneaky podium perhaps?

Most to prove: Jenson Button. Here’s hoping Jenson rises to the occasion on home soil after an Austrian GP where he was comprehensively trounced by teammate Kevin Magnussen, and after his team has told him to pick it up. This would be a perfect race for him to show he’s still got the heart in what’s been a trying personal year.

Christopher Estrada (@estradawriting)

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton. All the momentum he had from his four-race winning streak earlier in the season is gone. But facing something of a must-win situation on home ground, Hamilton will pull through and tighten his championship deficit to Nico Rosberg.

Surprising finish: Romain Grosjean. Silverstone’s array of high-speed corners should be more to the Lotus E22’s liking, so keep an eye out for a run back into the points from the Frenchman.

Most to prove: Lewis Hamilton. He’s lost out in the last three races, he’s down 29 points to Rosberg in the title race, and the locals desperately want a win from him after one of Pirelli’s blowouts ruined his British GP last year. No pressure. Well…Maybe a little.

Jerry Bonkowski (@JerryBonkowski)

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton. It’s no secret that Hamilton gets up a little more when he races in front of his home country fans. In addition, Hamilton needs to get closer to overtake series leader Nico Rosberg. What better to begin the kick towards a stretch run for the championship than on his home turf? 

Surprising finish: Felipe Massa. After climbing two places in the standings following the last race, Massa is on a bit of a hot streak, one that we expect to continue this Sunday. Massa is riding confidence, having moved into the top 10 in the standings. While it’s likely too late for him to make a second-half season rally for the championship, a top-five end of season finish is still possible — although it won’t be easy, indeed.

Most to prove: Jenson Button. What’s happened to JB this season? No wins, 122 points behind Nico Rosberg and has dropped to eighth in the standings. How can anyone explain that, particularly Button. Could this just be an off-season, or are we seeing the beginning of the end of Button’s career? Surely, racing on home turf should mean something for him and bring about a better result than we’ve seen from him this season.

Find out how to watch every session from the British Grand Prix live with NBC Sports by clicking here.

Schmidt Peterson aiming high with Hinchcliffe, Wickens

Photo: IndyCar
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The new Schmidt Peterson Motorsports duo of James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens expressed a high amount of confidence during Wednesday’s confirmation of Hinchcliffe’s return and Wickens’ signing, as the pair looks to return the Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson co-owned team to prominent status within the Verizon IndyCar Series.

“We’re hoping to give Toronto and Ontario and Canadian sports fans in general something to cheer about over the next season,” Hinchcliffe quipped during a teleconference on Wednesday.

Granted, there are likely to be several challenges to overcome, notably for Wickens, who returns to single-seater competition for the first time since 2011, when he was a champion of the Formula Renault 3.5 series and served as test driver for the now defunct Manor Racing (then known as Marussia Virgin Racing).

Having spent every year since then in DTM, where he won a total of six races and finished as high as fourth in the championship (2016), Wickens knows returning to open wheel competition will be an adjustment. However, he explained that the history of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, specifically its Indy Lights history, speaks to their ability to help a driver adapt, and he rates the program they’re putting together very highly.

“I think Schmidt Peterson Motorsports have a fantastic driver development program. They showed that in their multiple Indy Lights championships along the way. I think we will have a strong program in place. I have a feeling that the simulator will be my new best friend,” Wickens said when asked about getting reacquainted with an open-wheel car.

Of course, having an experienced teammate like Hinchcliffe to lean on will undoubtedly help the transition, something Wickens readily admitted.

“I’m very fortunate that I have James as my teammate because he’s so experienced, I can learn off him. Because we already have such a good off-track relationship, I feel like you can just take his word, trust him, kind of move forward with it,” he revealed.

They’ve been teammates before, both in karting where they first met in 2001, and then in the now-defunct A1 Grand Prix series in 2007-2008, a series that pitted nations against each other in spec open-wheel cars. Funnily, that A1GP type of vibe returns as Schmidt Peterson Motorsports now has that with its “Team Canada” mantra while all four of Andretti Autosport’s full-season drivers are American.

For Hinchcliffe, Wickens’ background, even if it hasn’t been in the single-seater realm since 2011, was a big selling point in adding him to the team.

“In Robby, we have a proven winner at a very high level. The level of technical expertise that he comes with from his time in DTM is very impressive,” he said of Wickens’ technical background.

Hinchcliffe added that Wickens’ ability to analyze the car and its setup was evidenced in two outings: one at Sebing International Raceway in March, in part of a “ride swap” between the two longtime friends, and a second at Road America, when he subbed on Friday practice for Mikhail Aleshin.

Wickens sampled Hinchcliffe’s No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda earlier this year. Photo: IndyCar

Hinchcliffe revealed that Wickens’ feedback to the team and his ability to quickly adapt to the chassis took everyone somewhat by surprise.

“We did our ride swap. He had two hours in the car, hardly anything even resembling a test day, and his performance was pretty impressive. No doubt the time in Road America helped because that really gave us a better sense of his technical feedback, integrated with the team a little bit more. Everybody was happy to work with him on that day,” said Hinchcliffe.

Further still, Hinchcliffe is firm in his belief that the 2018 aero kit and its reduction in aerodynamic downforce will fall right into Wickens’ wheelhouse, based on Hinchcliffe’s own take after sampling Wickens’ DTM Mercedes earlier this year.

“In all honesty, I was saying earlier today, the 2018 car is probably better suited for him than the 2017 car because of the experience he’s had the last handful of series,” Hinchcliffe asserted.

“The (aero kit) was such high downforce, it would be a big change coming out of DTM. But with the loss of downforce that we’ve seen, the car is moving around a little bit more, brake zones, things like that, it won’t be as big a transition I think. Just based on the experience that I got in our ride swap, I think he’s going to adapt very quickly, be comfortable very quickly, and as a result be competitive very quickly. So it’s going to be exciting.”

As for expectations heading into next year, team co-owner Schmidt did not mince words and expects the team’s performance to resemble what they did in 2012, 2013, and 2014, when they won a total of four races (with driver Simon Pagenaud) and finished in the top five in the championship each year.

“We had a stint in ’12, ’13, ’14 where we finished fifth in the points (or better. I think we want to get back to that level of competition,” Schmidt added. “We felt like we were missing things in having two cars with equal funding and equal drivers and equal capabilities. We think this gets back there.”

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