MotorSportsTalk’s Predictions: 2016 Italian GP

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Formula 1 heads to one of its most historic and revered venues this weekend as the Autodromo Nazionale Monza plays host to the Italian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg arrive at Monza still embroiled in a tight tussle at the top of the drivers’ championship, the gap between them shrinking to nine points following last weekend’s race in Belgium.

Victory at Spa for Rosberg has seen momentum shift back in his direction after a barren run of form through July before the summer break.

Yet after Hamilton’s fightback from 21st on the grid to third at the checkered flag last Sunday, both drivers will be feeling good heading into the final European race of the season.

MST F1 writers Luke Smith and Tony DiZinno have made their picks for the forthcoming weekend – let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race Winner: Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton has been hugely impressive at Monza over the past few years, winning three of the last four races there. With fresh engines and the concern of failures no longer hanging over his head, I’ll pick Hamilton to score a third straight Italian Grand Prix victory on Sunday.

Surprise Finish: Valtteri Bottas. Williams has impressed recently at Monza, the high-speed nature of the circuit suiting the strengths of its cars. I’ll tip Bottas to beat the Force Indias and follow home the top six as the ‘best of the rest’ on Sunday.

Most to Prove: Ferrari. Still no wins in 2016. A baying crowd hungry to see a driver draped in Maranello red on the podium. On home soil, Ferrari needs to impress.

Additional Storyline: Verstappen’s on-track antics. Following the war of words between Max Verstappen and the Ferrari drivers over the Dutchman’s on-track behavior in Belgium, it will be interesting to see if any approaches change this weekend. It’s a tight run down to Turn 1…

Predict the Podium

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

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race Winner: Lewis Hamilton. Damage limitations exercised after his power unit changes going into Spa, Lewis got on the podium and hung onto the championship lead. He’s often gone well at Monza and I can see him winning again here.

Surprise Finish: Sebastian Vettel. Us saying a Ferrari is a surprise finisher? Considering Ferrari hasn’t been on the podium since Austria nearly two months ago, yes, a podium would be a surprise. But it’s desperately needed, and while Raikkonen’s been solid this year I can see Vettel coming P3.

Most to Prove: Max Verstappen. His rivalry with Kimi Raikkonen is established and he’s rankled the establishment with his aggression. A calm weekend out of the headlines is needed. Unless the headlines are that he’s stunned the rest by beating the Mercs…

Additional Storyline: Ferrari on home soil. Always the story, rarely the favorite in recent years at Monza… how does Scuderia Ferrari get on in front of the tifosi this weekend?

Predict the Podium

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

Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.