MotorSportsTalk’s Predictions: Italian Grand Prix

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The Italian Grand Prix at Monza has traditionally marked the beginning of the end for each Formula 1 season, acting as the final European round of the year.

In the modern sport, the bulk of flyaway races mean that we still have seven more races after this weekend’s grand prix, but much is already being decided and in 2015.

The driver market is becoming increasingly clear, with the majority of drivers poised to remain with their current teams.

Williams announced on Thursday it would be retaining Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas for 2016, whilst Force India signed Nico Hulkenberg up for another two years earlier this week.

The race for the championship also appears to be becoming increasingly one-sided. Lewis Hamilton extended his lead over Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg to 28 points last time out in Belgium, storming to his sixth victory of the season.

Another win on Sunday would see Hamilton break past the 30-point barrier, and given his form in the second half of 2014, it is difficult to see where Rosberg claw his way back into the fight.

Ahead of this weekend’s race at Monza, MotorSportsTalk’s Luke Smith and Tony DiZinno have made their predictions. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race WinnerLewis Hamilton. Hamilton is in a fine run of form at the moment, and I can’t see much changing at Monza this weekend. The grunt of the Mercedes engine should prevent Sebastian Vettel or Ferrari from posing a threat, leaving only Rosberg in Hamilton’s way. And it’s not like that has been much of a problem recently.

Surprising Finish: Romain Grosjean. Riding high after his third-place finish at Spa, I’m tipping RoGro to impress once again this weekend. Lotus may be facing a rough few weeks financially, but the car is sound and Grosjean is one of the most underrated drivers on the grid.

Most to ProveSebastian Vettel. A driver’s first Italian Grand Prix as a Ferrari driver is always an important occasion. Although Vettel may struggle to emulate Fernando Alonso and win first time out, he will be expected to bring home a podium at least.

Additional Storyline to WatchGrid penalty one-upping. McLaren racked up 105 places worth of grid penalties at Spa. I wonder if any of the teams can beat that this weekend.

Predict the Podium

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

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race Winner: Lewis Hamilton. Because Mercedes, because horsepower, because Lewis was back to being authoritative again at Spa.

Surprising FinishNico Hulkenberg. We’re seeing the upgrades of the B-spec Force India and Sergio Perez took it to great heights at Spa. Nico, now armed with a new contract, is due for his first top-five finish of the F1 season. It’s a long shot, but if he has the  chance to stand on a Le Mans and Monza podium in the same season, given the crowds rushing the track afterwards, would be extraordinary.

Most to Prove: Williams. Consecutive double dip races without top-five finishes is not what this team needs. They’re not vulnerable in the constructors’ championship – yet – but can’t afford a third successive lackluster grand prix.

Additional Storyline to WatchWhat, if any, stories emerge about the race’s future. As the European finale and with some talk in the last year about Monza possibly falling off the schedule, the significance of this year’s race may become more important if a new contract is not agreed upon. Monza, more than nearly any other circuit on the calendar, represents the soul of the sport.

Predict the Podium

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

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.