MotorSportsTalk’s Predictions: 2016 Chinese GP

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After winning the opening two races of the 2016 Formula 1 season, Nico Rosberg arrives at the site of his first ever grand prix victory this weekend with hopes of extending his streak.

Rosberg has won the last five F1 races – a feat no driver has managed without becoming champion – and will look to extend the run to six on Sunday in the Chinese Grand Prix.

Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton will be hungry to bounce back from a tough start to the season that has seen him slip 17 points behind Rosberg in the championship, and also boasts an impressive record in Shanghai.

As usual, MotorSportsTalk writers Luke Smith and Tony DiZinno have made their picks for the weekend ahead. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

The Chinese Grand Prix weekend is live across NBCSN and Live Extra this weekend. For full TV information, click here.

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race Winner: Lewis Hamilton. As impressive as Nico Rosberg’s run has been, I’m marking this down as the weekend that Hamilton finally strikes back. His record in China is matched by no-one, and if he can make a good start and go wheel-to-wheel with Rosberg, I’d tip him to come out on top and claw back some of the deficit.

Surprising FinishEsteban Gutierrez. Gutierrez was unfortunate to drop out in Bahrain early on due to a brake disc issue, but his good qualifying and start does give a sign of things to come. I’ll back Esteban to score his first F1 points in over two years in China.

Most to ProveSauber. After a disappointing start to the season on-track, Sauber’s future is now coming under scrutiny once again. The team will be in China, but it needs to prove that it has a plan for the future and that it can still battle for points.

Additional Storyline to WatchFall out from qualifying. We may be going back to the 2015 format this weekend, yet it will be fascinating to watch the political fall out of it all. Bernie Ecclestone and Jean Todt backed down in the face of the strength from the teams, but at what price?

Predict the Podium

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

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race Winner: Lewis Hamilton. If ever there was a time or place for Hamilton to stop the Rosberg train, it’s at a track where Hamilton has four past wins, including the last two. A pivotal weekend for him and I think he seizes it.

Surprising Finish: Pascal Wehrlein. Not sure if we can call Grosjean/Haas scoring big points a surprise anymore – who’d have thought we’d be typing that weeks ago – so perhaps China is the place where Wehrlein breaks into the points on merit. Very promising signs were shown in Bahrain and I think he keeps it up this weekend.

Most to ProveFerrari. Two reliability failures in two races have them already 50 points back of Mercedes this early in the season. Seems hard to believe that the Constructor’s Championship is already getting out of reach but Ferrari needs two solid points finishes, and in an ideal world getting at least one of its cars ahead of a Merc.

Additional Storyline to Watch: The returns. Assuming Alonso has been cleared to go and the 2015 qualifying format makes a welcome comeback, here’s two elements of the race weekend that will be important to watch.

Predict the Podium

1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes
3. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”