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

Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
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ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).

“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.

“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”

For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.

“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.

“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”

Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.