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.

IndyCar’s ‘Phoenix’ flying into 2023 season: Romain Grosjean enjoying the pilot’s life

IndyCar Romain Grosjean pilot
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – The IndyCar driver known as “The Phoenix” already has taken flight before the 2023 season, and newly licensed pilot Romain Grosjean also got a head start on the opener.

Fulfilling a dream several years in the making, the Andretti Autosport plunged into aviation training over the offseason. Since beginning with online studying last August, Grosjean quickly progressed to earning his licenses for multiengine planes and instrument ratings while completing 115 hours of flight time.

He has landed twice at Albert Whitted Airport, whose primary runway also doubles as the front straightaway on the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg street course.

“Just to land on the start-finish line, that was pretty cool,” Grosjean said during IndyCar Preseason Content Days ahead of the Feb. 2-3 test at The Thermal Club. “The air traffic control guy was like, “Yeah, left on Acre Five, turn, and then back. I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s the last corner of the racetrack, I’ll take it and go back to the pit lane. He was like, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, that’s true.’ So it was quite funny.”

Grosjean, 36, said he had wanted to become a pilot since he was 30 but was discouraged by Europe’s complicated and time-consuming licensing process (“to go to ground school twice a week, and with our life, it’s impossible”). He was inspired again last year by (now former) teammate Alexander Rossi, who flew to some 2022 races after earning his license a couple of years ago.

“I thought that was pretty cool,” said Grosjean, who had grown “bored of waiting in the airports.”

He plans to fly to nearly all the races this year (“if the weather is good enough, I’ll be flying”) and jokes about being “commercial by the end of the year, so then I can take Roger (Penske). Roger can pay me to fly him around to races if things go bad with racing.”

Grosjean’s social media has been filled with posts about his new hobby, which afforded him the opportunity recently to take his wife to Key West for lunch from their home in the Miami area. The trip took 37 minutes there and 41 minutes on return and highlighted why Grosjean loves flying: “Freedom. Freedom to go anywhere you want, anytime you want. It’s the beauty of it. We can go to the Bahamas for a day if we want to. Anywhere. I think that’s just great to know that you can do whatever you want.”

It’s reminiscent of the cross-country trip across the Midwest in an RV that Grosjean took with his family during the summer of his 2021 rookie season.

“There’s one thing that I told my kids, and I told my friend about America, and for me, that’s the biggest difference between Europe and here, is here everything is possible,” said Grosjean (whose “Phoenix” nickname was derived from a brush with death in his final Formula One start). “If you have the wish, if you give yourself the possibility of doing it, everything is possible. It is different in Europe. Much more boundaries on the way. Much more steps that you need to do in a certain order. But if you want to be extraordinary (in the United States), if you want to do something different, you don’t need to do those steps because you can work through.

“Yeah, I like doing things, and when I do them, I like doing them well. But here I think just the opportunity of driving the RV, flying planes, for my kids to do whatever they want to do, we love that here. Yeah, it’s been the best discovery for us.”

The Swiss-born Frenchman already has flown himself to a race this year, jetting up the Florida coast for his Rolex 24 at Daytona debut last month. It was his debut as a Lamborghini factory driver, and his new deal will continue with the Twelve Hours of Sebring and possibly the Petit Le Mans while he also helps develop the automaker’s new hybrid prototype (LMDh) for next year.

Grosjean, who finished a disappointing 13th in the 2022 points standings with one podium for Andretti in his first full season, said IndyCar will remain his priority in 2024.

But he hopes the IndyCar schedule will afford racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship endurance races and perhaps another his longest plane flight yet — a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“I’ll keep my fingers crossed like that we get the weekend off from IndyCar,” said Grosjean, noting that 10 IndyCar drivers were in the Rolex 24. “I think it would make a lot of sense. I think for both series it’s amazing. If we can get Le Mans, it’s also amazing because it’s just cool.

“I remember Mario flying across the Atlantic doing Monaco and the Indy 500, and those guys, they were racing everywhere, Formula 3, Formula 2, Formula 1. They were doing the races in opening of the Formula 1 race, and I think that’s very cool for us. So yeah, looking forward to the project. There’s going to be a lot of development coming on. By the time we finish the IndyCar season, the LMDh will be here in the States, and that’s when I’m going to spend a lot of time on it.”