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MotorSportsTalk’s Predictions: Mexican GP

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After 23 years away, the Mexican Grand Prix makes its much-anticipated return this weekend as Formula 1 ventures to the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.

With a fanbase hungry for F1 and two drivers – Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez – making names for themselves in the sport, Mexico’s return to the calendar has been widely welcomed, and will look to return the favor to the paddock this weekend.

Lewis Hamilton arrives in Mexico City a three-time world champion, and for the first time in his career has the luxury of having the championship already won and in his back pocket with three races to spare.

As such, it will be interesting to see how the Briton fares this weekend and for the remainder of the season, particularly with Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg still hungry to add to their win tallies this year (three apiece) and finish as runner-up to Hamilton.

Heading into this weekend’s race, MST lead writers Luke Smith and Tony DiZinno have made their predictions for what promises to be a memorable event in Mexico.

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race WinnerLewis Hamilton. In the form of his life and with the peace of mind that the championship is already won, I’m tipping Lewis to be at his brilliant best this weekend. An 11th win of the season would rubber-stamp his authority on an already-dominant campaign.

Surprising FinishSergio Perez. When Perez enters the Forosol stadium section for the first time with 30,000 Mexican fans chanting his name, it will be clear why F1 is back in Mexico. Checo is in great form with the B-spec Force India, and I’ll back him to flourish on home soil this weekend.

Most to ProveNico Rosberg. After bottling the race win in Austin, Rosberg needs to come back strong in Mexico. Finishing behind Vettel in the championship despite having one of the most dominant F1 cars in history underneath him would be a massive blow.

Additional Storyline to WatchMexico returns. Revived races can be risky, but this one appears to be a sure-fire winner. With a huge fanbase, two drivers and a heavy sponsor presence in F1, Mexico needs a grand prix. This weekend should only underscore that.

Predict the Podium

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

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race Winner: Lewis Hamilton. Duh, right? Newly crowned three-time World Champion will roll into the newest (old) track on the calendar and continue his hot streak. With the title out of the way, 10 wins this year and three more races remaining, he has a chance to equal the Schumacher/Vettel 13 wins in a season record.

Surprise finish: Sergio Perez. Again… duh, right? The Force India-Mercedes has been one of the star chassis the second half of the season, Perez one of the star drivers. Provided he isn’t completely overwhelmed with promotional and media responsibilities ahead of his home Grand Prix, Perez rolls on his hot streak with another top-five finish. A podium may cause the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez to spontaneously combust.

Most to prove: Carlos Sainz Jr. Desperately unlucky in recent races, but fell victim to an accusation by the usually ebullient Daniel Ricciardo – who we hope has survived his attack on Texas red meat Sunday night – that his race craft was lacking. More to the point, he’s been outclassed and out-pointed big time by Max Verstappen of late. He needs a trouble-free weekend, as does the Toro Rosso crew, who have worked tirelessly to ensure the young Spaniard has a working chassis.

Additional storyline: Rain vs. crowds. If it’s “deja vu all over again” with heavy rain coming to Mexico City, is it going to affect the fervent passion of the locals who have been waiting for 23 years to get a race back on the schedule? You’d think not. The old Champ Car races in Mexico City were traditionally packed, regardless of weather, so the F1 crowd should be monstrous this weekend.

Pick the podium

1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes
3. Sergio Perez Force India

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

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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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.”