© Getty Images

MotorSportsTalk’s Predictions: 2016 Australian GP

3 Comments

The new Formula 1 season will roar into life this weekend with the traditional curtain-raiser in Melbourne, Australia.

Lewis Hamilton enters the new campaign chasing a fourth world championship, but with Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to contend with, he is unlikely to have it all his own way this season.

2016 marks the return of Renault as a manufacturer team and the arrival of Haas F1 Team, the first American operation to line up on the grid in 30 years, making this weekend’s race an important one.

The majority of the grid has returned for 2016, with just three rookies – Jolyon Palmer, Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto – making their debuts on Sunday.

Also returning for 2016 are the MST predictions. Myself and MotorSportsTalk editor Tony DiZinno will go head-to-head each race weekend on a number of picks – be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race WinnerNico Rosberg. Maybe it’s me being an optimist, but I’m going to go with Rosberg to win on Sunday. Hamilton may claim he’s back on the ball after letting things slip at the end of last year, yet I think Nico just has that extra focus right now. Losing in Australia would be a wake-up call to the defending champion.

Surprising FinishRomain Grosjean. Points for Haas on debut may be a bit of a stretch, but the baseline pace of the car has been good. With a race of attrition setting in and Grosjean at the wheel though, it’s very possible. RoGro to give Gene Haas a memorable debut.

Most to ProveLewis Hamilton. That he has regained focus over the winter and is ready to fight for a fourth world title. With Vettel also set to rival him in 2016, Hamilton needs to be on his toes to see off the threats from both inside and outside Mercedes.

Additional Storyline to Watch: New qualifying format. Some say it will be the best thing that ever happened to F1 qualifying. Others say it won’t change much. Either way, let’s see if the new quickfire eliminations on Saturday have an impact and justify the recent debacle surrounding qualifying.

Predict the Podium

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

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race Winner: Lewis Hamilton. New year, new focus. Even if Hamilton ended the 2015 season on a losing streak, he didn’t need to worry too much as he had the title already sewn up. Will seek to dispel the notion that Rosberg can set the tone for the year by winning the opener and winning the first psychological battle as well as the first one on track.

Surprising Finish: Sergio Perez. The Force India seems a good package and they got a double points finish here last year with an old car, albeit more on survival than outright pace. This year – and given Perez’s affinity for tire conservation – the combination of a good package and his ability to star given whatever compound he’s on could lead to a top-five result out of the gate.

Most to Prove: Nico Rosberg. Seems weird to say that of a guy who on paper would finish no worse than second, right? But if he can take the first win of the year it would prove a big occasion for his confidence and show he can win when it matters. Yes it’s only the first race of the year, but this is a very important weekend for him.

Additional Storyline to Watch: Haas and the newness. OK, two there but between the new qualifying format, the new tire regulations, the new drivers and most notably from an American standpoint, the debut of Haas F1 Team, there’s a lot more intrigue in these elements this weekend than there probably will be at the front of the field.

Predict the Podium

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

Indianapolis Motor Speedway can have 10,000 fans for IndyCar races

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have crowds for its NTT IndyCar Series race weekend next month, the first time fans are allowed at the track this year.

The track announced Friday that up to 10,000 fans will be allowed in the grandstands daily from Oct. 1-4. The IndyCar Harvest GP race doubleheader will be held on the track’s road course Oct. 2-3.

IMS has played host to several events this year without fans, including the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 and a NASCAR-IndyCar weekend July 4-5 that included the Brickyard 400. Plans originally were made to have fans at the Indy 500 before reversing course a few weeks ahead of the race. In a letter last month, Roger Penske vowed that fans would return for the 2021 Indy 500.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS president Doug Boles said in a release. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

Fans will undergo temperature screenings upon entry and also be required to wear face coverings at all times on property. The track said each attendee will receive a mask and bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Friday, Oct. 2 race will be shown at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA, and NBC will broadcast the Saturday, Oct. 3 race at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.

Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.

This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.

Fans also will see a host of facility improvements during the event weekend, including more than 30 new LED video boards, refreshed concession stands and restrooms, and 5G wireless connectivity throughout the facility.

The first race will air at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 2 on the USA Network. NBC will broadcast the second race at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Oct. 3, with WTHR-13 airing the action live in Central Indiana.

Also racing that weekend will be the first pairing of two major sports car series — the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held Sunday, Oct. 4.

The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.

The full on-track schedule is available at IMS.com.