MotorSportsTalk Predictions: Russian Grand Prix

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The 2015 Formula 1 season is slowly nearing its conclusion with just five races remaining, and this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix could see the first silverware of the year be decided.

Mercedes is within touching distance of a second constructors’ championship, knowing that if it outscores Ferrari by just three points in Sochi, the title will be sewn up in Sochi for a second consecutive year.

Lewis Hamilton is also continuing his march to the drivers’ title, and knows that victory in Russia will give him the chance to be crowned a three-time champion next time out in Austin or – more realistically – Mexico.

Ferrari will be hoping to delay the party for as long as possible, though. The tire allocation for this weekend’s race at the Sochi Autodrom – super-soft and soft – does appear to favor the Italian marque, setting up a great battle at the front of the field.

Here’s what the MST writing team had to say ahead of this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix, which is live across NBCSN and Live Extra. For full broadcast details, click here.

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race WinnerSebastian Vettel. I’m going to be a bit different and tip Vettel to put the softer tire allocation to good use at Sochi and win a fourth race of the year. Ferrari’s recent engine updates appear to finally be coming good, and, most importantly, a fourth win would force team principal Maurizio Arrivabene to make good on his pre-season promise that he would run barefoot up the hill to Maranello – and who doesn’t want to see that?

Surprising FinishFelipe Massa. Williams’ recent form hasn’t been overly impressive, but I reckon Massa and teammate Valtteri Bottas could buck the trend here in Russia.

Most to ProveNico Rosberg. 48 points behind, and defeat to Hamilton here would give the Briton the chance to wrap it up four races early at the United States Grand Prix. It’s time for Rosberg to show a bit of fight.

Additional Storyline to WatchYear two for Sochi. Last year’s race was something of a drab affair both on and off track. The facility in Sochi is very shiny and brand new, albeit a little lifeless. Let’s see how things develop this time around.

Predict the Podium

1. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari
2. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
3. Felipe Massa Williams

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race WinnerLewis Hamilton. Peerless here last year and back on form at Suzuka a couple weeks ago. He’ll move closer to the title with another triumph this weekend.

Surprising FinishFelipe Massa. I’ll say the Brazilian bounces back from his debacle here last year where he was bounced in Q1 and missed the points to a podium finish this weekend. The Mercedes-powered cars should be strong and I like Felipe to capitalize.

Most to ProveNico Rosberg. With fading title hopes and after his faux pas last year on the start, must perform in both qualifying and the race if he is to have any hope of snatching the title from his teammate.

Additional Storyline to WatchSochi, year two. The debut last year of the race felt a bit muted anyway given it was a week on from Suzuka and the emotional overhead of Jules Bianchi’s accident was first and foremost. The race debut came during an Olympics year, as well, so it wasn’t even the biggest storyline in Sochi during 2014. In year two, will the race be any more interesting? Will the interest in the race from the locals carry much weight?

Predict the Podium

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

Three-time W Series champ Jamie Chadwick joining Andretti in Indy NXT Series for 2023

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Jamie Chadwick, the three-time W Series champion, will drive for Andretti Autosport in the Indy NXT Series next season.

Chadwick will make her debut in an American racing series in March, driving the No. 28 for Andretti Autosport with sponsorship from DHL. The 24-year-old will become the first female driver in 13 years to compete full time in the Indy NXT championship.

Chadwick joined the female free-to-enter W Series in its inaugural 2019 season, winning two races and the first of three consecutive championships. She has been a reserve driver for the Williams Formula One team and will continue in that role in 2023. She also has driven in the Extreme E Series.

Despite her success, Chadwick hasn’t landed a bigger ride in F3 or F2, and her break didn’t come until Michael Andretti contacted her and offered a test in an Indy NXT car.

The final three races of this year’s W Series schedule were canceled when funding fell through, but Chadwick still believes the all-female series was the right path for her.

“W Series has always been and will continue to be an opportunity to be racing for every female driver, so for my side, I looked at it while perhaps I would have liked to step up maybe earlier, at the same time being able to have that chance to race, get that experience, have that development, seat time… I was constantly learning,” Chadwick told The Associated Press.

“In that sense, I wasn’t frustrated at all. But on the flip side of it, now I’ve had that experience testing in the United States in Indy NXT and this is something I’m really excited about.”

Chadwick also is expected to have an enhanced role as a development driver next season with Williams, which chose American driver Logan Sargeant to fill its open seat on next year’s F1 grid.

“Andretti Autosport is proud to be supporting Jamie alongside DHL,” said Michael Andretti. “Jamie’s successful career speaks for itself, but Indy NXT gives Jamie the opportunity to continue her development in a new type of racing.

“We’ve turned out five Indy NXT champions over the years and look forward to continuing our role in developing new talent.”

Indy NXT is the new name of the rebranded Indy Lights Series, the final step on the ladder system before IndyCar.

Andretti will field two drivers next season in IndyCar that were developed in Indy NXT: Kyle Kirkwood, the 2021 champion, will return to Andretti after one season in IndyCar driving for A.J. Foyt Racing, and Devlin DeFrancesco is back for a second season.

Chadwick will be teammates in Indy NXT with Hunter McElrea and Louis Foster. She becomes Andretti’s second full-time female driver alongside Catie Munnings, who competes for Andretti United in the Extreme E Series.