F1 Grand Prix of Great Britain - Previews

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.

CJ Wilson completes first test in Porsche GT3 Cup car

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Photo courtesy of CJ Wilson Racing
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CJ Wilson’s new career is officially underway, following his retirement from professional baseball and now having completed his first test last week at Texas World Speedway in his new 2017 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car.

Wilson, who formally announced the news he’d be transitioning into racing full-time during Rolex 24 at Daytona race week, did a two-day test at the still active oval/road course combo track in College Station, Texas. Wilson tested one of the team’s Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsports (the team runs two in IMSA’s Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge) and then advanced into the Cup car.

Wilson got fairly close to teammate Marc Miller’s times during the test as he acclimated to both the Cup car and the Yokohama tires.

“It’s great to take another step towards my goals,” Wilson said. “We had a chance to burn through two sets of tires today and I made a lot of progress. Having Marc as my coach was incredibly helpful because we have a lot of faith in each other and communicate using the same terms. Having sat in driver debriefings for the past six years with the race team, I was able to take all the input logically and make progress each session.

“The only odd thing about the test is that nobody else was here, which was the first time I have ever been on a track completely alone, so when we did a race simulation I had to use my imagination. TWS is a really fast and bumpy track. Looking forward to getting back in the car in ten days and pick up where I left off.”

Miller added, “CJ did great job, but I expected as much. He is logical and methodical which makes him easy to help and that translated into a very quick progression along the learning curve. Like any professional athlete though he is never truly satisfied because he wants to be perfect. He took quickly to the new Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car. It is confidence inspiring and such a capable platform so that suited him well in getting up to speed. Overall, it was a successful first outing and I look forward to working with CJ this season. I expect he will have a solid debut at Sebring. He better or I’m likely fired.”

A teaser of on-board footage is below, along with a couple other social posts from the test:

Danny Watts: ‘Staying hidden was nothing but torture and pain’

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 22:  (l to r) Strakka Racing drivers Danny Watts, Nick Leventis and Jonny Kane pose during the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship Photo Call on March 22, 2013 at Potters Fields in London, England.  (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
Watts (left) with Leventis and Kane in 2013. Photo: Getty Images
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Sports car veteran driver Danny Watts has announced his retirement from active competition, but is in the news for an entirely different reason on Monday.

The 37-year-old Brit has announced he’s gay, penning a first-person piece for the Huffington Post and also doing interviews with both Daily Sportscar and Autosport. The latter article features a well-written op-ed from author Matt Beer.

In the Huffington Post piece, Watts, an eight-time starter and 2010 LMP2 class winner at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, wrote that hiding his sexuality in the heavily white male heterosexual world of motorsport was simply becoming too much to keep under wraps.

“There isn’t any one moment that stands out in my mind as the moment I realized I would need to live in the closet if I wanted my motorsport career to go anywhere; it was just a general feeling I got,” Watts wrote.

“All the other guys in the paddock had girlfriends, so I got one to blend in. When that relationship ended, I got another one, and so I continued pretending to be straight for seventeen years.

“Staying hidden was nothing but torture and pain.

“I hope that there are a few people who are supportive. If the response I’ve had from the queer motorsport community thus far is any gauge, I feel hopeful that I’ll find a supportive group to start driving change for my queer siblings in the sport I love.”

Within the motorsports world, Watts’ name is best known to the sports car paddock, and he was a regular with the Strakka Racing team alongside co-drivers Jonny Kane and Nick Leventis. But he isn’t particularly known to the racing world at large.

This announcement comes as Watts has opted to call time on his full-time driving career and instead will focus on coaching for the future. It also represents one of the higher profile names in racing announcing his sexual orientation, which makes it newsworthy.

Despite some detractors (as you might expect), a number of other drivers and key motorsports figures have revealed their support for Watts, and why this news matters, on social media today:

Marino Franchitti returns to Mazda at Sebring

SEBRING, FL - MARCH 15:  Left to right, Marino Franchitti, Memo Rojas and Scott Pruett celebrate after winning the 12 Hours of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway on March 15, 2014 in Sebring, Florida.  (Photo by Brian Cleary/Getty Images)
Franchitti (left) won at Sebring in 2014. Photo: Getty Images
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Marino Franchitti will make his return to a Mazda entry for next month’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, to be run March 18, as third driver in the team’s No. 70 Mazda RT24-P with Joel Miller and Tom Long.

The Scotsman competed in the team’s RX-8 and 6 models in the GT ranks but has been out of a drive since his role with Ford Chip Ganassi Racing last season in one of the team’s Ford GTs in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

Franchitti replaces James Hinchcliffe, who was the third driver in the No. 70 car at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. He’ll test for the team later this week at Sebring prior to the race run in the second IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race of the year.

“A big part of those results are being with great teams and having great teammates. I’ve been fortunate in that regard,” said Franchitti, who co-drove to win overall at Sebring in 2014. “I love driving there, I always have since the first laps I did. It’s a proper old-school track. If you go over the limit, you crash, simple as that, rather than going onto some tarmac run-off like many tracks. I love the challenge of walking that tightrope. Of course, there’s the challenge of the bumps too, trying to get the car to handle over them and the beating the car and driver takes. There’s a reason people come from all over the world to endurance test their cars here, it’s the ultimate test of a vehicle and its durability.

No. 70 Mazda RT24-P. Photo courtesy of IMSA
No. 70 Mazda RT24-P. Photo courtesy of IMSA

“It’s so cool to be coming back into the Mazda family,” said Franchitti. “Like everyone else, I was blown away when I saw the first shots of the RT24-P and how incredible it looks, so there’s a lot of excitement at getting to drive it. I’m relieved I get a chance to test the car, as many times I’ve just jumped in and raced, so this is a bit of a luxury! Being a part of the development process of a car is something I’ve been lucky enough to do several times and it’s something I really love.”

Mazda Motorsports director John Doonan added, “He’s a proven winner there, and he’s been a part of the Mazda family for years. Just look at his record at Sebring! He has the experience that can really help our team. Because he’s driven with Mazda before, we know his personality is a great fit. That’s important to us, and it goes a long way in helping the team chemistry remain strong. He’s a great fit with Tom [Long] and Joel [Miller], just as Spencer Pigot has been great with Nunez and Bomarito.”

Pipo Derani set for IndyCar test with SPM at Sebring

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Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Pipo Derani has become a star in the sports car world the last couple years, courtesy of his drives primarily with Tequila Patron ESM.

Meanwhile for at least a day, the 23-year-old Brazilian will be returning to his open-wheel roots in a big way.

NBC Sports has learned Derani will test for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports on March 1 in a rookie test for the Verizon IndyCar Series. Derani joins Mexican driver Luis Michael Dorrbecker, who will also make his test debut that day at that test at Sebring International Raceway’s 1.5-mile short course.

Derani raced a partial season in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires series in 2014 with Team Pelfrey, before shifting to sports cars later that fall, starting with Murphy Prototypes.

Derani excelled with G-Drive in 2015 before his star turn with ESM last year. This year, his schedule grows even greater, as he’s been confirmed with Ford Chip Ganassi Racing for the first three races of the FIA World Endurance Championship season, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, sharing the No. 67 Ford GT with Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell.

It’ll be interesting to see what Derani does on the Sebring short course in one of SPM’s Honda-powered entries. He’ll be back at Sebring a couple weeks after his IndyCar test, as he prepares to defend his win in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with ESM.