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.

Oliver Askew: ‘I was starting to lose confidence’ after ‘hardest hit I’ve had’

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Oliver Askew knew something was medically wrong in the days after concussion-like symptoms began from “the hardest hit I’ve ever had” in the Indianapolis 500. He’d been evaluated and cleared to race after the Aug. 23 crash, but he just didn’t feel right.

The IndyCar rookie told The Associated Press on Thursday he has been experiencing dizziness, sleeping difficulties, irritability, headaches and confusion since he crashed in the Aug. 23 race. He continued to race in four more events as he tried to “play through it” until friends and family encouraged him to seek medical treatment.

He since has been diagnosed with a concussion and is working on a recovery plan with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s sports medicine concussion program, the same place NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. received care after concussions in 2012 and ’16. Askew will not compete in next weekend’s doubleheader on the road course at Indianapolis, and Arrow McLaren SP will put three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves in the No. 7 Chevrolet.

“This is all I’ve worked for,” the 23-year-old told AP. “I don’t come from money, and I’ve worked my way up and have finally gotten my shot in a good car. And then all of a sudden, the results just weren’t there in a car I knew should be performing. And I just didn’t feel like myself, you know?

“So initially I felt like I needed to stay in the car and continue to improve. And then I didn’t feel like I could do that with my condition and what was going on. I was starting to lose confidence in myself.”

Earnhardt praised Askew for going to Pittsburgh to see Dr. Micky Collins.

“Oliver is in the best hands when it comes to taking care of this problem and getting back on the racetrack. It was very smart of him to get in front of Micky so that he could understand the seriousness of the situation and begin the process of getting well,” Earnhardt said. “You can absolutely heal from this but not without taking the step of getting help. Often that’s the most difficult step.”

Athletes often hide injuries to continue competing, and even Earnhardt admittedly masked concussions during his driving career. Askew didn’t know what was wrong with him but was frightened to get out of the car.

He is a paid driver who brings no sponsorship money to the team (but did bring a $1 million scholarship for winning last year’s Indy Lights championship), and owner Sam Schmidt holds the option on his contract.

As he tried to race on, his performance suffered. Askew had finished third and sixth at Iowa — the previous two races before Indianapolis. After the crash, he was part of a multicar accident the next week at Gateway and has not finished higher than 14th in the four races since Indy.

A year after winning seven Indy Lights races, Askew has fallen from 12th to 18th in the standings and slipped considerably off the pace. He said he struggled in team debriefs, had difficulty giving feedback and has gone through a personality change that was noticeable to those close to Askew.

Spire Sports + Entertainment, which represents Askew and was among those who pushed the driver to see a doctor, noted Arrow McLaren SP did not reveal that Askew was suffering from a concussion in its Thursday announcement he would miss next week’s race.

“Oliver clearly demonstrated his talent until Lap 91 of the Indianapolis 500, and I hope this does not become another case study of why athletes do not tell their teams they are injured,” said agent Jeff Dickerson. “The reason they do that is because more often times than not they are replaced. In motorsports, there is always somebody to replace you, and whether it was Dale Jr. or Oliver Askew, there is always another driver available.

“I hope this is not a barrier to progress for other drivers — especially young drivers afraid of losing their job — to notify their teams they are hurt. I hope the team proves me wrong because the good news is, the kid has had a head injury for the past month and has still run 14th in IndyCar.”

After finally seeking medical treatment, Askew said he was relieved to learn there was something wrong. He said doctors told him the injury has a “100% recovery rate” and he believes he will be able to race in the IndyCar season finale next month at St. Petersburg. He’s been rehabilitating with exercises and tasks that strain the brain such as deliberately going to grocery stores and the airport.

“Honestly, you know, if I had not gone to see medical professionals I would probably stay in the car,” Askew said. “But now after hearing what’s wrong and that it could get worse, God forbid I have another hit, I know I did the right thing. I think I can be an example for young drivers now in stepping up and saying something is wrong, I need to have this checked out.”