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).

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.”