MotorSportsTalk’s Predictions: Malaysian GP

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The first round of the 2015 Formula 1 season ended up being rather anti-climatic. After being hyped up throughout the winter, the end result was more of the same from 2014: Mercedes dominance and political disarray.

Lewis Hamilton sent out an early statement of intent in his bid for a third world championship by outclassing Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in Australia, making his victory – which was only by 1.3 seconds at the flag – look rather easy.

However, the two drivers are set to battle for supremacy once again in Malaysia this weekend, with the stage set for a thrilling battle in the heat of Kuala Lumpur.

With rain forecast across the three days of running, the pecking order could be set for another shake-up this weekend, making our task of predicting the results all the more difficult.

Nevertheless, here are the MST picks for the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race WinnerLewis Hamilton. Again, you can’t really bet against Lewis Hamilton when he is in this kind of form. Rosberg was soundly beaten once again in Australia, and it is difficult to see anything changing without some divine intervention in Malaysia. Expect Lewis to bag his second Sepang win on Sunday.

Surprising FinishFelipe Nasr. After scoring the best debut result for a Brazilian driver in F1 history last time out, Felipe Nasr heads to Malaysia looking to continue his strong start to life in the sport. The pace of the Sauber took me by surprise, and if he can pick up another strong score in Malaysia, it would go a long way to helping the team.

Most to ProveManor. After failing to reach the grid in Australia, Manor really does need to get out on track this weekend. Even just taking part in practice would be a good step, but another ‘did not participate’ would not go down well.

Additional Storyline to WatchMarciello’s Malaysia bow. A bit of a different one, but keep an eye out for Sauber reserve driver and Ferrari junior Raffaele Marciello during practice on Friday. He’s a star in the making and has a very bright future ahead of him. A solid display in Felipe Nasr’s place in FP1 would certainly further these credentials.

Predict the Podium

1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes
3. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race WinnerLewis Hamilton. Ride the hot hand at a hot track. Hamilton and Mercedes are showing no signs of slowing down and a two-for-two start early in 2015 will already leave Nico Rosberg feeling vulnerable as the season progresses.

Surprising FinishKimi Raikkonen. At a track where he has traditionally gone well, I’d look for Kimi to get on par with Vettel from a results standpoint early on. A top-five finish is possible.

Most to ProveRenault. In the wake of the Australian Grand Prix fiasco, subsequent Red Bull pullout threats and the pair of mechanical failures that took Daniil Kvyat and Max Verstappen out of the race, is Renault set to withstand the heat and offer up a challenge to Ferrari for second best engine on the grid? Or will they fall further behind? It’s early in the season, but Renault-powered teams can’t afford to lose too much further ground.

Additional Storyline to WatchFernando Alonso’s return. All eyes will be on the Spaniard this weekend from both a health and performance standpoint, and whether he can bring his traditional exceed-the-car flare to the thus far down on pace McLaren Honda. It’s rare that the heat gets overshadowed in Malaysia, but Alonso is more than worthy of doing so.

Predict the Podium

1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes
3. Felipe Massa Williams

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For full broadcasting details for the Malaysian Grand Prix, click here.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III