MotorSportsTalk’s Predictions: Japanese Grand Prix

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The MST predictions have been rather, uh, predictable in 2015. One reader comment for last week’s set of picks in Singapore asked for myself and Tony to expand our top three to a top five so as to introduce a bit of difference and spice things up.

And then Singapore happened.

Sebastian Vettel stormed to his third victory of the season, harking back to his Red Bull heyday of 2013 by going lights-to-flag at Marina Bay and controlling proceedings from start to finish. He was followed across the line by Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen, shocking the watching Formula 1 world as the top Mercedes came home in fourth place.

All weekend long, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton struggled for pace. Rosberg’s fourth-place finish probably flattered Mercedes’ ability, whilst Hamilton’s retirement gave his title rivals some much-needed respite.

As such, the MST predictions this weekend have been made very interesting indeed. Let us know your picks in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race WinnerLewis Hamilton. Okay so maybe this is a bit predictable… but I’m of the belief that Mercedes’ struggles in Singapore were circumstantial. They were not the sign of a change in the pecking order in the long-term. The German marque remains the front-runner, and Hamilton is still the man to beat. I’m tipping him for a second Suzuka win on Sunday.

Surprising FinishRomain Grosjean. In the face of adversity, Grosjean has continued to fly the Lotus flag proudly in 2015. This track should suit the E23 Hybrid quite well, so expect Grosjean to return to the points on Sunday.

Most to ProveFerrari. Arguably, Ferrari has to prove that it has made the big step towards Mercedes that has been talked up over the past week or so.

Additional Storyline to WatchForza Jules. F1 will race with a heavy heart this weekend as the drivers return to Suzuka one year on from Jules Bianchi’s accident. The Frenchman was honored in Hungary after his death in July, and another great race would be a fitting tribute.

Predict the Podium

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

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race WinnerSebastian Vettel. Well, Singapore certainly threw us a curveball. Cannot say I saw that one coming. The rationale now for picking Seb back-to-back for the first time this year and thus, for the first time in his Ferrari career – if Mercedes is as off as it was at Singapore, a fix to course correct does not happen overnight. The series heads to Japan without a chance to make any upgrades, and the track’s a bit different, faster and more flowing compared to Singapore. Mercs should get back on the podium but here’s to hoping Vettel and Ferrari’s form isn’t a one-off.

Surprising FinishNico Hulkenberg. Although Sergio Perez has been the big points scorer of late Force India, I like Hulkenberg’s chances more so this weekend. This is a track he’s finished seventh, sixth and eighth in the last three years – twice with Force India – and a fifth or sixth place should be possible with this car this weekend.

Most to ProveMcLaren-Honda. All eyes will be fixated on the de facto home team, as Honda returns to its home track and its home country seeking not to fall flat on its face. It’s expected – likely by this time of posting – that Jenson Button will call time on his F1 career at year’s end, and it becomes officially his last Japanese Grand Prix. Simply a point would be a good result, sad to say.

Additional Storyline to WatchManor’s return to Suzuka. As it was in Monaco, the emotions down at the back of the grid will be more a story than elsewhere. Manor returns to the site where Jules Bianchi had his ultimately fatal accident. The team has carried itself well despite the tragedy and is actually on a decent run of form following its double finish in Singapore, with F1 debutante Alexander Rossi leading the way in 14th. Another double finish – one punching above the car’s weight – would serve as a perfect tribute to their fallen teammate.

Predict the Podium

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

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).