MotorSportsTalk’s Predictions: Belgian GP

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After a four-week break, Formula 1 returns for the second half of the 2014 season with the Belgian Grand Prix. The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is the perfect location to herald the end of the summer break and the start of the run-in, given that it is perhaps the most notorious and famous track on the calendar. Throw in weather that won’t make up its mind, 22 drivers, 22 cars and droves of passionate fans, and it is easy to see why this race is one of the best of the year.

For the MotorSportsTalk writing team, this is one of the most difficult grands prix to predict. After the summer break, we usually see a slight shift in the pecking order that sets the tone for the rest of the season – this is where Sebastian Vettel started his winning streak in 2013 – and this year may be no different.

Williams is certainly snapping at Mercedes’ heels, and with the likes of Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren and Force India all in the hunt for the podium positions, the fight will be wide open when F1 descends on the Ardennes forest this weekend.

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton. At the behemoth that is Spa, you cannot leave anything in the motorhome: tackling this circuit requires serious gall and skill. It’ll be another tight battle, but I’m going to have to side with Lewis for this weekend’s race.

Surprising finish: Felipe Massa. Dear old Felipe hasn’t had much luck this season, but that could change at Spa this weekend. I’m backing him to secure his first podium finish in Williams colors on Sunday.

Most to prove: Andre Lotterer. Well this is someone I never expected to be picking. Andre Lotterer must prove to F1 just why he is doing this. If he gets outclassed by Marcus Ericsson, it wouldn’t be great for justifying the decision to take part in a one off race. However, I do expect him to live up to the hype suitably.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race winner: Valtteri Bottas. I’m going bold. Or I’m just bored of picking Mercedes drivers. Post the summer break and with Williams making all the noise saying they can snatch a win either here or Monza, I’ll say Valtteri follows through on all his promise this season and makes his first trip to the top step of the podium.

Surprising finish: Romain Grosjean. At the track where he made headlines for all the wrong reasons two years ago, perhaps Lotus’ upgrades can turn both his and the team’s fortunes around. A good weekend here could kick their second half of 2014 off on the right foot.

Most to prove: Jean-Eric Vergne. Poor “JEV” has been plagued with mechanical unreliability more often than not and now has the misfortune of being kicked out of Toro Rosso for young Max Verstappen in 2015. Spa’s renowned as one of the great driver tracks left on the F1 calendar, and a strong showing from Vergne in his first race of his final eight at STR will show the paddock his worth. That’s the hope, anyway.

Christopher Estrada (@estradawriting)

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton. Another coin-flip race between the Mercedes pilots, who should be quite stout at the high-speed Spa. Nico Rosberg’s never hit the podium at Spa, but that should change. Still, I’ll go with Hamilton, who won this race in 2010 with McLaren.

Surprising finish: Sergio Perez. Hungary finally saw Force India go scoreless for the first time in 2014, but their Merc-powered machines should do well this weekend. Seems like a good time for Perez to finally earn his first career points in the Ardennes (DNFs in 2011 and 2012, 11th with McLaren last year).

Most to prove: Jean-Eric Vergne. The final eight races of the year are now the most important of the Frenchman’s racing career after Scuderia Toro Rosso gave his race seat for 2015 to teenager Max Verstappen. His quest to show the F1 paddock that he deserves a spot on next year’s grid has begun.

Jerry Bonkowski (@JerryBonkowski)

Race winner: Nico Rosberg. It’s time for Nico to put some distance between himself and hard-closing Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton. Just 11 points separate the two. Rosberg and Hamilton have little to worry about in terms of other challengers: Third-ranked Daniel Ricciardo is a distant 71 points behind Rosberg and 60 points in arrears to Hamilton.

Surprising finish: Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard has to prove he’s still relevant. Sure, he’s fourth in the F1 standings, but he’s so far behind in points that he is somewhat of a forgotten man. A podium finish at the very least, if not a win, would help prove Alonso is still a top talent.

Most to prove: Andre Lotterer. The three-time Le Mans winner makes his Formula One debut at Spa. He has a lot to show and to prove, but he also has immense talent. While we don’t expect Lotterer to win or even come close to winning Sunday, he’ll be hoping to run as close to the top ten as possible. If he can do that, it would be a significant achievement.

Formula 1: Ricciardo nurses power unit trouble to win in Monaco

Photo: Getty Images
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Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo had dominated the Monaco Grand Prix weekend heading into Sunday, topping every practice session and laying down a lap-record 1:10.810 to secure the pole.

The race itself was also going according to plan for Ricciardo, as he got the jump off Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel on the start to lead into Sainte Devote.

However, on Lap 28, after the leaders all made their lone pit stops of the race, Ricciardo’s day nearly came unglued when he reported a loss of power on his RB14.

With the Red Bull team monitoring the issue, Vettel was able to close back in on Ricciardo and began stalking him for the lead.

However, Ricciardo brilliantly utilized a combination of late-braking and sustained cornering speed to keep Vettel at bay and secure his first victory at the Monaco Grand Prix.

The victory, Ricciardo’s second of the 2018 Formula 1 season, serves as sweet redemption after a pit stop error cost him a possible victory in 2016, when he settled for second behind Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.

Vettel, meanwhile, saw his challenge hampered after a Lap 72 Virtual Safety Car for a crash between Sauber’s Charles Leclerc and Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley – Leclerc suffered brake failure on the run up to the Nouvelle Chicane, and collected Hartley in the process.

When the VSC ended, Vettel could not get his Pirellis back up to temperature, and Ricciardo pulled away in the final laps.

While Vettel ended up second, Hamilton rounded out the podium in third, despite struggling with a graining issue on his Pirelli ultrasofts in the second half of the race. Hamilton held off Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, who also fended off Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas for fourth – the trio finished up third (Hamilton), fourth (Raikkonen), and fifth (Bottas).

Esteban Ocon was sixth for Force India, with Pierre Gasly coming home a strong seventh for Toro Rosso. Nico Hulkenberg ended up eighth for Renault, while Max Verstappen came home ninth after starting last – Verstappen ran long on his first stint before switching to hypersofts on Lap 48. He ran the hypers all the way to the end to finish ninth.

Carlos Sainz Jr. was the final points finisher, coming home tenth for Renault.

Results are below.

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