MotorSportsTalk’s Predictions: Hungarian GP

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As Formula 1 gets set to embark on its summer break and shutdown, we head to Hungary for the last race until the beginning of fall. The Hungarian Grand Prix has been a mainstay on the F1 calendar since 1986, and is a favorite among the drivers, teams and fans.

It’s also a particular favorite for Lewis Hamilton, who has won at the Hungaroring on four occasions. With victory this weekend, he would surpass Michael Schumacher as being the most successful driver to have raced in Hungary – not to mention that he would cut the gap to Nico Rosberg in the drivers’ standings.

F1 might be about to say school’s out for summer, but it certainly isn’t for MotorSportsTalk. Silly season is set to dominate the headlines during the break with Fernando Alonso appearing to be the king pin.

For the time being, let’s get back to this weekend. Here is the MST writing team’s predictions for the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton. Lewis appears to have a taste for goulash, as Hungary always is a happy hunting ground for him. The Briton knows that victory here will cut Rosberg’s lead by at least half, and he should become the first driver to win the Hungarian Grand Prix five times.

Surprising finish: Sebastian Vettel. Saying Seb will get on the podium may not seem surprising, but I’m going for Red Bull to be a damn sight closer to Mercedes this weekend than in Germany. Perhaps we won’t see the 20-second wins that we’ve been used to so far this year.

Most to prove: Nico Rosberg. Am I being harsh here? Probably. Nico needs to prove that he can match Hamilton for pure race pace, so keeping his teammate in sight this weekend would be a good achievement. This title race hinges on momentum: Nico needs it heading into the summer break.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton. Traditionally strong at Hungary, defending race winner and needs the win to avoid losing ground to Rosberg. Needs to make things easier for himself after his qualifying accident last week and having to drive back to third.

Surprising finish: Felipe Massa. Nearly won here in his near-title-winning 2008 season and Williams teammate Bottas can’t have all the luck. Here’s to Massa breaking his duck of late and finally getting on the podium in a car that’s quickly become the second best in the field.

Most to prove: Kimi Raikkonen. Nondescript weekend after nondescript weekend for Kimi this year. It would be nice to see the 2007 World Champion turn in some form of success.

Christopher Estrada (@estradawriting)

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton. The twisty Hungaroring could make Red Bull a bigger threat, but I think it’s still Mercedes’ race to lose. I’ll go with Hamilton, the two-time defending champion of this race. After teammate Nico Rosberg won on home ground last weekend in Germany, Hamilton needs a W here to keep pace in their championship duel.

Surprising finish: Jenson Button. With a lack of high-speed corners, Hungary should provide Button with an opportunity to get into the upper reaches of the points. The track has been good to him in the past: It’s where he got his inaugural Grand Prix victory in 2006 and he won there again in 2011 during his 200th Grand Prix start.

Most to prove: Felipe Massa. So now Claire Williams is holding out hope that her squad can catch Red Bull for P2 in the constructors’ championship. If that’s going to happen, she needs Valtteri Bottas to keep doing what he’s been doing. But more importantly, she needs Massa to shake off the bad luck that’s bitten him lately.

Jerry Bonkowski (@JerryBonkowski)

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton. Having won the last two times in Hungary and three of the last five races there, it’s hard to pick against Hamilton, especially with him needing to rally to overtake teammate Nico Rosberg for the F1 points lead.

Surprising finish: Nico Rosberg. Rosberg has been dominant this season, but he won’t be in Hungary, especially with teammate Lewis Hamilton breathing down his neck. The pressure will get to the German. Look for him to have one of his worst outings of the season.

Most to prove: Jenson Button. Sitting in eighth place in the standings and nearly 120 points behind points leader Rosberg is not a place that Jenson is familiar with, nor should he be in. Obviously, a rough start has left him behind the eight ball, but there’s still plenty of time for him to rally for a top-five season finish (although that will admittedly be a longshot, no doubt).

IMSA: Rolex 24 Team Preview – GTLM

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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MotorSportsTalk’s Kyle Lavigne continues the team preview of entries for the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona with the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class. At nine entries, it is the smallest of the three classes entered in this weekend’s Rolex 24 and down from last year’s 11 entries, but past events indicate it may be the event’s most competitive class.

The 2017 Rolex 24 saw four different marques from four different teams battling for the GTLM win late in the race, with Ford Chip Ganassi Racing taking the win with Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais. And in 2016, Corvette Racing saw its No. 3 and 4 entries duel to the checkered flag, with Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, and Marcel Fassler victorious in the No. 4 machine.

Below is a breakdown of the teams entered in the GTLM class.

Corvette Racing
Car: Corvette C7.R
No. 3 (Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, Mike Rockenfeller)
No. 4 (Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, Marcel Fassler)

Outlook: Corvette Racing has been a perennial powerhouse in GT racing over the entirety of the 21st century, and that isn’t something that’s likely to change. Coming off their 13th championship last year – Garcia and Magnussen took home last year’s GTLM driver’s crown – Corvette Racing now hunts for its fourth Rolex 24 triumph.

With an unchanged package that is proven to be both fast and reliable, Corvette Racing looks set to again feature prominently in the GTLM battle. Barring problems, both cars should be battling up front for the win.

BMW Team RLL
Car: BMW M8 GTLM
No. 24 (Jesse Krohn, John Edwards, Nicky Catsburg, Augusto Farfus)
No. 25 (Alexander Sims, Connor De Phillippi, Bill Auberlen, Philipp Eng)

Outlook: Of all the GTLM entries, BMW Team RLL sees by far the most change to its program. Out is the M6 GTLM and in is the brand new M8 GTLM. Jesse Krohn, Nicky Catsburg, Augusto Farfus, Philipp Eng and Connor De Phillippi are all new drivers to the team, while veteran Bill Auberlen will only contest the four Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup events in 2018.

At the Roar Before the 24, the program appeared to lack speed. Sunday qualifying, to decide pit stall and garage selection, saw the No. 25 qualify the better of the two BMWs, but one second slower than the next quickest car – the BMW set a 1:45.056 for seventh in GTLM, behind the Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE, which set a 1:44.037.

It remains to be seen if there is more speed in the BMW machines, but they remain the most unproven of the GTLM entries. A victory seems out of reach at the moment, but that could change if the package improves.

Risi Competizione
Car: Ferrari 488 GTE
No. 62 (Toni Vilander, Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado, Davide Rigon)

Outlook: Risi Competizione came excruciatingly close to winning last year’s Rolex, but a late-race battle between James Calado and Dirk Mueller, of Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, saw Mueller come out on top, while Calado was shuffled back to third by the time the checkered flag fell.

They did not win an event last year, but this is a team that knows how to win big races – they have previously won the Motul Petit Le Mans – and should once again prove to be a major player in the GTLM battle.

The only major change comes in their driver lineup, with Alessandro Pier Guidi and David Rigon joining the lineup and Giancarlo Fisichella departing. But, with Calado and Toni Vilander returning to anchor the driving team, this change is not expected to slow the team down. Expect them to battle at the front all race long.

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing
Car: Ford GT
No. 66 (Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller, Sebastien Bourdais)
No. 67 (Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook, Scott Dixon)

Outlook: Ford Chip Ganassi Racing returns to the Rolex 24 as defending race winners – Hand, Mueller, and Bourdais delivered the victory in 2017. Further, they return with the same driver lineups and car they used. In short, every indication is that they enter this year’s event as favorites to repeat.

The Roar Before the 24 gave further evidence of this. Both of the cars were among the quickest in every session at the Roar, and Sunday qualifying saw its No. 66 end up at the top of the board, with the No. 67 in third.

The GTLM field is strong all the way around, but this team is likely the favorite entering the event.

Porsche GT Team
Car: Porsche 911 RSR

No. 911 (Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy, Frederic Makowiecki)
No. 912 (Laurens Vanthoor, Earl Bamber, Gianmaria Bruni)

Outlook: Porsche GT Team brings with it a star-studded driver lineup that features former class winners of the Rolex 24, former overall winners of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and a ton of all-around talent.

The team finished a close second at last year’s Rolex 24, with the No. 911 entry, behind the race-winning Ford from Chip Ganassi’s stable. Later that year, they visited victory lane – Porsche finished 1-2 at Lime Rock Park, with the No. 911 taking the victory – proving that the mid-engine 911 RSR is more than up to the task and gives the team everything they need to be contenders.

Porsche will have a fight on their hands, but this is a team that expects to compete for a victory, and they did win this event in 2014. They round out a titanic GTLM grid and should be a fixture throughout the day.

Follow@KyleMLavigne