MotorSportsTalk’s Predictions: German GP

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With Germany currently going World Cup crazy, the pressure is well and truly on both Nico Rosberg and the Mercedes team to keep the good times going with victory at this weekend’s German Grand Prix.

Hoping to stop Nico will be Britain’s Lewis Hamilton, who claimed an emotional home win last time out at Silverstone. His victory, combined with Rosberg’s first retirement of the season, saw the gap at the top of the standings drop to just four points in favor of the German. Having won here back in 2008, Lewis will know that a repeat result will give him the lead of the drivers’ championship for just the second time this season.

With that, plus the likes of Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Kimi Raikkonen hoping to play a supporting role, the MST writing team has to think carefully for its picks this weekend.

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton. As cool as a home win for Nico Rosberg would be, Lewis has the momentum right now. This is a track that he likes, and was the scene of one of his greatest ever wins back in 2008. I’m backing the Briton to become Mercedes’ first home winner since Fangio in 1954.

Surprising finish: Nico Hulkenberg. Where better to secure your first ever podium finish in F1 than at your home race? I’m tipping Nico to score his first – and frankly overdue – top three finish this weekend at a track that should suit Force India.

Most to prove: SauberAargh! Seriously! It sums up Sauber’s season that it matched its best qualifying result of the season at Silverstone despite both cars finishing in the gravel. A change must come for Sauber, surely?

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race winner: Nico Rosberg. Pivotal weekend for Nico to bounce back after Silverstone DNF. He’s got everything else going for him this week, why not a home GP victory to match Lewis?

Surprising finish: Nico Hulkenberg. While Williams has done better in the “second best Mercedes power unit” class of late, the Hockenheim circuit and return to softer tyre compounds should favor the Force India. And Hulkenberg is usually my pick ahead of Perez, especially on home soil.

Most to prove: Kamui Kobayashi. In part because this might be the last time he gets picked for anything this year! The usually fearless driver hasn’t had drives reminiscent of those at Sauber. He may be on borrowed time at Caterham and could use a standout showing. Raikkonen and Sutil are also due to perform but their seats aren’t yet in immediate danger.

Christopher Estrada (@estradawriting)

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton. Never mind Nico Rosberg’s amazing week that has seen him get married, sign a contract extension, and see Germany win the World Cup. Hamilton’s win at Silverstone was the perfect thing to revitalize him, and he’ll ruin Rosberg’s homecoming at Hockenheim.

Surprising finish: Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard has won the last two German GPs at Hockenheim (2010, 2012). A third consecutive win at this track is probably too much to ask considering Ferrari’s overall pace, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him challenge for the last step on the podium.

Most to prove: Nico Hulkenberg. Neither he or Force India teammate Sergio Perez had ideal balance at Silverstone, but Hockenheim and the tire compounds should be a better fit – and the Hulk will be very anxious to continue his points streak at what was his local circuit when he was growing up.

Jerry Bonkowski (@JerryBonkowski)

Race winner: Nico Rosberg. Even though he leads the F1 points, Rosberg still trails Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton when it comes to wins (Hamilton has five, Rosberg has three). Plus, Nico is on home turf this weekend. We expect him to put on a dominating performance – and leave Hamilton in his dust.

Surprising finish: Sebastian Vettel. Again, we’re going with homeland edge. Sebastian Vettel will rise to the occasion in front of his countrymen and comes “home” – so to speak – with a podium finish. Vettel has struggled far too much and far too long this season. He needs a homecourt advantage and he gets one Sunday.

Most to prove: Felipe Massa. Who doesn’t have a lot to prove heading into the 10th race of the season? Teams and drivers that we expected to do well heading into the 2014 season have been like fish out of water and floundered miserably. We could probably pick a dozen drivers that fit in this category, but we’ll go with Felipe Massa. While Massa has dipped to 10th place, his teammate, Valtteri Bottas, has had a strong season with a solid fifth-place ranking. Since their cars are so similar, obviously the shortcoming in the difference between the two has to be the individual talent behind the wheel.

IMSA: Sebring Day 2 of two-day test notebook

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Testing across several IMSA sanctioned series continued at Sebring International Raceway on Tuesday as preparations continue for next month’s events during the weekend of the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.

Below are highlights from Day 2 of testing around the 3.74-mile road course.

Eurosport Racing Continues Work with Mazda Prototype Challenge Chassis

Teams in the Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda championship completed their second day of testing on Tuesday. Among them, Eurosport Racing continued their work with the only Mazda Prototype Challenge (MPC) entries in the field, in the hands of drivers Dr. Tim George (in the No. 24 entry) and Jon Brownson (in the No. 34).

“Right now, I’m driving by myself so we’re trying to make the car comfortable enough to last an hour and 45 minutes with just me in the car,” George said of their preparation efforts. “We’re trying to set up the car where it’s quick, yet it and can last, both the car and for me to make sure we don’t tire out, get fatigued and make mistakes.”

The 1 hour 45 minute window that George referenced represents the race times for the 2018 season, up considerably from last year’s sprint format that featured a pair of 45-minute races across a race weekend.

Though that change represents a drastic shift in driving philosophy, it is one that George welcomes.

“The new rules for the endurance races are great, I enjoy it a lot,” said George. “It gives you a chance to think through things differently with strategy. It also gives you a chance if you blow it…in a sprint race if you make a mistake you don’t get a chance to come back.”

Florida Drivers in Continental Tire Challenge Eager for Hometown Race at Sebring

A strong contingent of drivers from Florida are represented in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, and next month’s 12 Hours of Sebring weekend will see them compete on home soil.

“I grew up in Tallahassee and I live in Orlando now, so Sebring has been my home track since day one,” said Paul Holton, driver of the No. 76 Compass Racing McLaren GT4, which finished 14th at the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway. “I’ve spent a lot of time down here and really enjoy the place. It’s a nice, quaint little town not far from Orlando so it’s a quick, easy drive down for me.”

Fellow Floridian Ramin Abdolvahabi, a native of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and driver of the No. 09 Automatic Racing Aston Martin Vantage, revealed that, even though Sebring is only two hours from his hometown, this week’s test was his first time at the track in two years.

“I haven’t been here for two years, so coming back is like coming home,” he said. “It’s a fantastic track and it’s one of the iconic tracks in the world so being at Sebring – a small town, my hometown, welcoming – it’s fantastic. I went on the track a couple of times yesterday and it’s just like wearing an old shoe, it just fits and it’s fantastic. Hopefully, the race will go well and the weather will hold, so anyone who’s out there, come and see us!”

Frank Raso Trades in Airplanes for Porsches at Sebring

Several IMSA drivers boast “day jobs” outside of their racing gigs. Among them, Frank Raso’s work falls outside of ordinary jobs like doctor or lawyer. Rather, Raso flies airplanes for a living.

“I’m an airline pilot for a major airline,” said Raso, who tested the No. 10 Topp Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car at Sebring. “I’ve been flying for almost 30 years, and it’s allowed me, with all my time off and things like that to do this and fall back into racing again. I messed with it a little bit when I was younger, but it was, of course, expensive, so I got away from it for a while. I decided I wanted to get back into it in kind of my last couple of years before I get too old.”

Raso explained that the skills he practices while flying planes are more than transferable to his driving duties in a Porsche GT3 Cup car.

“Flying an airliner or flying any airplane, we have checklists, but everything is kind of done in order. It’s almost in a robot fashion type of a thing where you do this, you do this, you do this and you have to make sure you hit all your marks and fly the airplane with precision.

“So, when you get in these Cup cars, with no anti-lock brakes, no traction control, and no driver assist items, you have to make sure you hit your marks, when you’re accelerating, when you’re turning in. You have to be alert. It keeps your wits about you. The car can step out at any time. They’re a very difficult car to drive, but they’re a lot of fun.”
The 54-year-old Raso posted a best finish of fourth, on four separate occasions, in a part-time schedule during the 2017 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama season as a competitor in the Gold Cup class.
Newcomers Get Taste of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge
A number of new drivers got to sample Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge cars during the two days of testing at Sebring. Among them was amateur racer Scott Welham, who got his first taste of professional racing during the two-day outing at Sebring.
And he had a strong support system backing him up in the Kelly-Moss Road and Race team, the defending Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge champions with driver Jake Eidson.
“Here, you’ve got somebody that actually does coaching, data acquisition, track management – these are all separate people – plant manager, owner, a car-setup guy, you’ve got someone that bills you – which isn’t always a good thing, but you know, you just have that huge, huge support group that enables you to focus on driving,” Welham said of the team’s influence on his development over the two days.
IMSA’s next visit to Sebring will be for the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring on March 17.