MotorSportsTalk’s Predictions: Monaco GP

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With one-quarter of the 2015 Formula 1 season now in the books, the paddock moves on to Monaco this weekend for its annual glamor event.

The tiny principality on the Mediterranean coast plays host to the most prestigious race on the sport’s calendar this weekend, and is prepared for another tussle at the front between Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

After enduring a barren run of ten defeats in eleven races to Hamilton, Rosberg finally responded in Spain by winning his first race of the 2015 season to bring himself back into the title fight.

The German driver heads into this weekend as the form driver around the streets of Monaco, having won the past two races there. Victory on Sunday would make him just the fourth ever driver to win three straight races in Monaco, joining Graham Hill, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna in a very exclusive club.

Hamilton will have other ideas, of course. The Briton has won in Monaco just once before, and with his new Mercedes deal now signed and announced, he can fully focus on racing and extending his championship lead this weekend.

Once again, the MST team is on hand to offer its predictions. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race WinnerNico Rosberg. After winning in Spain, Rosberg’s turn in form appears to finally have kicked in. He had Hamilton well-beaten in qualifying last time out, and it could be on Saturday where this weekend’s race is decided. I’m tipping Nico to win a third straight Monaco GP – without the trip down Mirabeau, this time.

Surprising Finish: Felipe Nasr. Sauber may not have a raft of updates on the C34 car, but this won’t be so important in Monaco. If Nasr can qualify well, expect the Brazilian to be fighting up in the points this weekend.

Most to ProveMcLaren. There’s only so long the “we’ll score points now!” can carry on for, right? Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button must be as tired of it as we are. If the car can see the finish, points could well be on the cards for McLaren. If not, concerns about its chances for the rest of the season will surely grow further.

Additional Storyline to WatchManor’s weekend. 12 months on from Jules Bianchi’s heroics around the streets on Monaco, it will be interesting to see how Manor gets on this weekend. A repeat of his charge to P9 may not be on the cards, but it will nevertheless be an important and emotional race for the team.

Predict the Podium

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

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race WinnerLewis Hamilton. New contract in hand… new motivation (as if he needed any) to get back on top after suffering first head-to-head defeat against Nico in Spain… new winner. And by new I mean back to winning after a one-race “drought.”

Surprising FinishPastor Maldonado. Going bold here with this one. Romain Grosjean has already proved the Lotus a good chassis this year while Pastor hasn’t had much in the way of luck/results. But here’s a track where he’s gone decently well in the past and I think his first points finish of the year should be on the cards. Realistically a seventh or eighth place is possible.

Most to ProveRed Bull. At a track where horsepower isn’t dominant, an opportunity exists for Red Bull to be more than just “running around” in their terms. Whether they actually do or not remains to be seen, but here’s to hoping that either or both of Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat can pull out a flier in qualifying and convert into some sort of a result. You’d seemingly have to go back six or seven years at least to find a Red Bull season start that has been this sluggish, without a top-five through the first five Grands Prix.

Additional Storyline to Watch: Manor’s Monaco return. Luke touched on it earlier this week and Will Buxton will have a piece up on this on our NBC coverage this weekend. This is likely to be an emotional weekend for Manor and one where they get more coverage than normal. Their competitiveness might not be there but the fighting resolve still is. I’d love to see them continue their finishing streak and if enough retirements occur, why not a points encore?

Predict the Podium

1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari
3. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”