MotorSportsTalk’s predictions: Indian GP

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Ahead of the race today in India, the writing team on MotorSportsTalk has made its predictions for what looks set to be the scene of Sebastian Vettel’s coronation as a four time world champion. Should he finish fifth or higher and secure the title, Vettel will join some prestigious company: only Alain Prost, Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher have won four world titles. It may be the final Indian Grand Prix until 2015, but the race is poised to cement itself a place in history today.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race winner: Sebastian Vettel. Let’s see… chance for six straight wins, fourth title and a shot to three-peat leading every lap from pole in India. Again it’s a case of pick him until he gets dethroned.

Surprising finish: Jenson Button. A podium and another top-five on his Indian scorecard thus far. “Surprise” in this instance would be a top-five but I feel it’s possible for him this weekend.

Most to prove: Paul di Resta. He’s gone scoreless seven races in a row with a car that has clearly fallen off the second half of the year. F1 career in jeopardy and at his team’s home race, time to stave off the naysayers and put together a memorable weekend.

Christopher Estrada (@estradawriting)

Race winner: Sebastian Vettel. A third (final?) victory in India will have Vettel claim his fourth consecutive World Championship with a flourish. Love him or hate him, you better darn well respect him.

Surprising finish: Esteban Gutierrez. Suzuka had to be a confidence booster for Gutierrez as he finally made a contribution to Sauber’s recent surge (and, at six points, a weighty one). The question now is can he keep it going at Buddh? I’m going to say yes.

Most to prove: Force India. If this is the last Indian Grand Prix for a while, then the home team at least has a chance to leave their fans with some fond memories. But with only three points between Adrian Sutil (all his) and Paul di Resta in the last seven races, they’ll have to step it up.

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race winner: Sebastian Vettel. Just as he was in Japan, his fine run of form combined with his affinity for the circuit should see him take to the top step of the podium once again and clinch a fourth world title.

Surprising finish: Jenson Button. McLaren have been running well here in India, so Button may be able to take advantage of his alternative strategy to work his way up the order and pick up some solid points.

Most to prove: Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian driver needs a good result here to prove to Red Bull that they made the right decision to hire him, and a stand-out result in his final four races for Toro Rosso would go a long way to doing this.

Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine)

Race winner: Sebastian Vettel. Yes, he might be conservatively-minded as he was when the title beckoned in Japan two years ago. But with a half-second advantage even over his team mate he can afford to drive with his fingertips and still thrash his competitors.

Surprising finish: Nico Hulkenberg. The Sauber looks very good on the medium tyres – he could be an outside bet for a podium finish.

Most to prove: Romain Grosjean. He’s come on in leaps and bounds in recent races with excellent qualifying performances which have allowed him to stay out of trouble and race at the front. From 17th on the grid he has to show he can keep a cool head and make his way up through the field.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed their new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with US-based Ford Motors in a press event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Team Principle Christian Horner. They are the only Formula 1 team to launch in the United States, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen had already wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts will inevitably turn to establishing a dynasty – and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his principle rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.