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MotorSportsTalk’s Predictions: Austrian GP

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Formula 1 ventures to Austria this weekend for a race that has quickly established itself as a firm favorite on the calendar.

F1 returned to Austria in 2014 after 11 years away after significant investment from Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz saw the A1-Ring – now called the Red Bull Ring – become a state-of-the-art facility.

Nico Rosberg arrives in Austria hopeful of extending his lead at the top of the F1 drivers’ championship, having opened the gap to Lewis Hamilton up to 24 points with victory last time out in Baku.

As ever, the MST F1 writing team has made its picks for the weekend. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race Winner: Nico Rosberg. Rosberg’s got his mojo back after winning in Baku lat time out. The German is a two-time winner at the Red Bull Ring, and with teammate Lewis Hamilton tending to struggle around the sub-70 second lap, I’m backing Nico to pick up his fifth win of the season on Sunday.

Surprise Finish: Valtteri Bottas. Williams always tends to run quite well in Austria. Let’s see if Bottas can bounce back from Baku and get back on the podium.

Most to Prove: Haas. Three races without points – the rut desperately needs to end sooner rather than later.

Additional Storyline: Track changes. The layout of the Red Bull Ring remains the same (for now… rumor has it the classic, bigger course could be revived in the future), but this year sees the race take place on a resurfaced track with the addition of some new kerbs. Lap times will be much quicker than they were last year, which should make for an exciting event.

Predict the Podium

1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes
2. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
3. Valtteri Bottas Williams

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race Winner: Nico Rosberg. Always a happy hunting ground for Rosberg who’s won both races since F1’s return two years ago, he’ll carry the momentum off his Baku win to a track where Lewis Hamilton traditionally has had at least one or two “moments.”

Surprise Finish: Felipe Massa. At a track where he’s thrived in the last two years and where he was on the podium last year, has his best shot at a podium in 2016 here this weekend. This is a track that should suit the Williams Mercedes package well. He also needs to get on form as Valtteri Bottas has had the better of him of late.

Most to Prove: Nico Hulkenberg. It’s time to see the generally high rated German pull off a performance capable of his talent because he’s been getting waxed by Sergio Perez lately. The Force India is a decent package and Perez has been extracting more out of it than has Hulkenberg.

Additional Storyline: Ultrasofts on a road course. After park-like or street circuit appearances, Pirelli’s ultrasoft tires get a go at the Red Bull Ring this weekend. They’ve lasted longer than you would have figured at first go, so it will be interesting to see if their life span remains as long here.

Predict the Podium

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

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans

LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.