MotorSportsTalk’s predictions: Spanish GP

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The European portion of the 2014 Formula 1 season gets underway this weekend in Spain, and Mercedes is chasing a fifth straight win. Just four points separate its drivers in the championship, but the momentum unquestionably lies with Lewis Hamilton after three successive victories.

However, this race presents the first chance for teams to introduce significant upgrades for their cars, and this could once again reshuffle the pack. F1 has a habit of never making things easy for us at MotorSportsTalk…

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton. I’ve been a bit critical of Lewis over the years, but he finally appears to be in a good place with Mercedes. Three wins on the bounce, and barring a car problem or a bit of stupidity, he’s my tip to make it four.

Surprising finish: Romain Grosjean. Lotus hasn’t earned much sympathy from me over the past year or so, but RoGro’s retirement in China was disheartening after such a tough pre-season. Let’s hope he finally reaches the top 10 this weekend.

Most to prove: Sauber. The Swiss team has been awful so far this year, but the C33 has gone on a diet and is considerably lighter this weekend, so results need to follow. Just lay off the paella, lads…

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton. When you’re hot, you’re hot. He’s never had the chance to win four in a row before and a race where he was poised to capture the win last year before tire issues, I think he’ll bounce back.

Surprising finish: Kimi Raikkonen. Ferrari should have made car improvements and Kimi, who insists he’s still plenty motivated, seems due for a bounce back. He hasn’t even cracked the top five yet but I think that changes this weekend.

Most to prove: Nico Rosberg. Seems weird to say that given he’s the points leader, right? Three consecutive second-place finishes to his teammate have not only given Hamilton the on-track edge, but the mental and psychological edge as well. Another race of losing to his teammate will do Rosberg no favors; he must respond this weekend.

Christopher Estrada (@estradawriting)

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton. After three straight defeats, his Mercedes teammate, Nico Rosberg, will be bent on getting one over on him. But until either he or someone else takes him down, Hamilton’s gotta be the favorite.

Surprising finish: Pastor Maldonado. Lotus has shown some good signs lately and with engine partner Renault promising “significant improvements,” keep an eye out for the Venezuelan, who scored his lone Grand Prix win two years ago in Barcelona.

Most to prove: McLaren. They’ve been saying that they have a plan to pull themselves back to the front. Now, the time has come for Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen to make it work.

Jerry Bonkowski (@JerryBonkowski)

Race winner: Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard has had a great season thus far, the highest-ranking non-Mercedes driver (currently third). There’s no better place for him to win his first race of 2014 than on Spanish home turf.

Surprising finish: Jenson Button. What has happened to JB this season? Eighth place in the standings, 46 points behind series leader Nico Rosberg? If he has another bad race – or finally breaks through with a decent run – either one will be a surprise finish.

Most to prove: Kimi Raikkonen. While his Ferrari teammate Alonso is riding high in third place, Raikkonen continues to have a disappointing season, when he was expected to have a great 2014. Four races into the schedule, he needs to make a big move upward in the standings, lest he be eliminated before the midpoint of the season.

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.