2018 United States Grand Prix – Preview

Lewis Hamilton has taken six of the last seven races, and now has the distinct opportunity to become only the third driver in history to become a five-time Formula One World Champion when Round 18 of the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship takes place from the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas for the 2018 United States Grand Prix.

Hamilton (331 points), who has won the United States Grand Prix six times, including five times at the Circuit of the Americas, including in each of the last four years, leads the championship for Mercedes by 67 points over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel (264 points) after claiming his fourth win in a row at Suzuka, and with the big step-up in performance Mercedes has taken, particularly during the flyaway races, it is almost a fait accompli that Hamilton will take out his fifth world championship, if not in the United States, at the following race in Mexico.

Behind the top two in the championship, the battle, in terms of the points score, has really fizzled out in the battle for third, with Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas (207 points) starting to take a firm grip on third in the world championship ahead of Vettel’s teammate Kimi Räikkönen (196 points), who will be looking to finish his time with Ferrari on a high before joining Sauber-Ferrari in 2019.

Max Verstappen (173 points) is fifth in the championship for Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer, and has a good chance of finishing third or fourth in 2018, ahead of his teammate Daniel Ricciardo (146 points), who seems destined to finish his final year with Red Bull, before linking up with Renault in 2019, in sixth position in the world championship despite three-straight points-scoring finishes.

And, behind the top six in the championship, we have five drivers separated by just four points battling to finish seventh, with Sergio Pérez (53 points), Kevin Magnussen (53 points), Nico Hülkenberg (53 points), Fernando Alonso (50 points), and Esteban Ocon (49 points) jostling between each other for the “best of the rest” title.

Looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (538 points) have a stranglehold on the world championship, leading by 78 points over Ferrari (460 points), and could take their fifth-straight Constructors’ Championship at the next round in Mexico.

Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer (319 points) are guaranteed to finish third at worst, should they, as expected, not be able to catch Ferrari, while the battle behind only continues to heat up, with Haas-Ferrari closing in on Renault for fourth, McLaren-Renault coming under increasing pressure from Force India-Mercedes for sixth, while Sauber-Ferrari are still in touching distance of Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda for eighth, while Williams-Mercedes are destined to finish 2018 in 10th.

Looking at the championship permutations, Lewis Hamilton must finish inside the top six at the 2018 United States Grand Prix, and ahead of Sebastian Vettel if he is to become a five-time world champion this weekend. Hamilton will become a five-time world champion at the Circuit of the Americas if:

  1. If Hamilton wins, Vettel must finish in 3rd or lower.
  2. If Hamilton finishes in 2nd, Vettel must finish in 5th or lower.
  3. If Hamilton finishes in 3rd, Vettel must finish in 7th or lower.
  4. If Hamilton finishes in 4th, Vettel must finish in 8th or lower.
  5. If Hamilton finishes in 5th, Vettel must finish in 9th or lower.
  6. If Hamilton finishes in 6th,  Vettel must finish outside of the points-scoring positions (11th or lower).

So, who will win the 2018 United States Grand Prix?

Unless Ferrari magically find some mind-blowing speed, Mercedes are most certainly the team to beat, and given what we saw in Russia and Japan, it would not be surprising if Mercedes finish first and second in Austin, and if that is the case, as long as Hamilton wins the United States Grand Prix for the seventh time, and at the Circuit of the Americas for the sixth time, he will claim his fifth world championship, and join Juan Manuel Fangio in equal-second for the most Formula One World Championships.

Advertisements

2018 Japanese GP (MotoGP) – Preview

The inaugural edition of the Thailand Grand Prix was an epic to say the least, with three different leaders and tight racing throughout the field, with the top 15 finishers being separated by just 23.628 seconds over the course of a 26-lap race, with the top 10 separated by 11.077 seconds, the top six by 3.023 seconds, and the top three separated by just 0.270 seconds!

However, when it was all said and done, one man took control of the Thailand Grand Prix, and now has the opportunity to take his fifth MotoGP World Championship, and become the youngest rider in history to win five premier class world championships when the 2018 MotoGP World Championship resumes with Round 16 of the championship at the Twin Ring Motegi in Japan.

Marc Márquez (271 points) leads the world championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 77 points over Ducati Team rider Andrea Dovizioso (194 points), the man who Márquez defeated to take victory in Thailand, while Valentino Rossi (172 points), who was in the battle for the majority of the race before slipping to fourth, is still in mathematical contention for the championship, but is 99 points behind the Spaniard for Movistar Yamaha MotoGP.

Behind the top three in the championship, Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales (146 points) leads the pack who cannot win the world championship in 2018, ahead of Dovizioso’s teammate Jorge Lorenzo (130 points), whose year has taken a nose-dive with three crashes, one in the race in Misano, one in the race at Aragon, which damaged his toe, and a massive highside in practice in Thailand, which forced him out of the rest of the weekend, ended all of his slim championship hopes, and will be racing to regain some pride in his final four races with Ducati before linking up with Honda in 2019.

Cal Crutchlow (128 points) is sixth in the championship for LCR Honda, ahead of Danilo Petrucci (126 points) for Alma Pramac Racing, and Johann Zarco (123 points) for Monster Yamaha Tech 3, while the two Team Suzuki Ecstar riders in Andrea Iannone (113 points) and Álex Rins (102 points) complete the top 10, with Rins in particular showing some great improvements, with (excluding the cancelled British Grand Prix) four-straight top 10 finishes in the last four races showing that on the right bike, Rins can be a force in the premier class in the coming years.

Looking at the permutations for this weekend, Marc Márquez can claim the 2018 MotoGP World Championship by:

  1. If Márquez finishes ahead of Dovizioso and Rossi.
  2. If Dovizioso finishes in 4th, Márquez must finish in 5th.
  3. If Dovizioso finishes in 5th, Márquez must finish in 7th or higher.
  4. If Dovizioso finishes in 6th, Márquez must finish in 8th or higher.
  5. If Dovizioso finishes in 7th, Márquez must finish in 9th or higher.
  6. If Dovizioso finishes in 8th, Márquez must finish in 10th or higher.
  7. If Dovizioso finishes in 9th, Márquez must finish in 11th or higher.
  8. If Dovizioso finishes in 10th, Márquez must finish in 12th or higher.
  9. If Dovizioso finishes in 11th, Márquez must finish in 13th or higher.
  10. If Dovizioso finishes in 12th, Márquez must finish in 14th or higher.
  11. If Dovizioso finishes in 13th, Márquez must finish in 15th or higher.
  12. If Dovizioso finishes in 14th or lower, Márquez is the WORLD CHAMPION.

So, who will win the Japanese Grand Prix?

Looking at the circuit demands, with long straights and plenty of hard braking zones, this should suit Ducati to a tee, and all of Ducati’s efforts will be geared to trying to get Andrea Dovizioso the victory to keep the championship alive, but even if that happens, you sense if Marc Márquez finishes on the podium, like he has in 12 of the 14 completed races in 2018, the championship will be a fait accompli at the Australian Grand Prix the following weekend.

 

2018 Thailand GP (MotoGP) – Preview

After a breathtaking race in Aragon, and an absolutely brilliant performance by Marc Márquez to take his fourth MotoGP victory in Aragon (his fifth across all classes), and his sixth victory of the season to place one hand on his fifth MotoGP World Championship, the grid heads to Buriram for the first time for the inaugural Thailand Grand Prix, Round 15 of the 2018 MotoGP World Championship.

Márquez (246 points) leads the championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 72 points over Ducati Team rider Andrea Dovizioso (174 points) with just five rounds remaining in the season. Dovizioso was also fantastic in Aragon last time out, giving Márquez a really hard time, but all things being considered, Dovizioso is the only rider that can stop Márquez from winning another world championship, but he will need things to go his way to stop the great Spaniard.

Valentino Rossi (159 points) is somehow still third in the championship for the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team despite finishing in what was a good 8th after starting in 17th position on the grid, but the speed is not there from the Yamaha, and it is very hard to see it appearing anytime soon.

Jorge Lorenzo (130 points) is fourth in the world championship, but could have been second in the standings after two crashes, including one at the opening corner of the opening lap in Aragon, cost him two probable podium finishes, and perhaps a race win in Aragon, and is equal on points with Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales (130 points), who like Rossi, is struggling to find strong pace on his Yamaha, but the Ducati rider is ahead on the standings due to achieving three race wins to the Yamaha rider’s zero.

Cal Crutchlow (119 points) is sixth in the championship for LCR Honda after crashing out in Aragon, and is tied on points with Alma Pramac Racing rider Danilo Petrucci (119 points), who finished in seventh at Aragon, but Crutchlow remains ahead in the standings due to his win in Argentina back in Round Two.

Johann Zarco (112 points) is eighth in the championship despite finishing in 14th-place at Aragon for Monster Yamaha Tech 3, while the two Team Suzuki Ecstar riders in Andrea Iannone (108 points) and Álex Rins (92 points) complete the top 10 in the standings, with Repsol Honda Team rider Dani Pedrosa (87 points) close behind in his final season in MotoGP.

So, who is going to win the inaugural Thailand Grand Prix?

Despite the recent dominance of Ducati since the mid-season break, I think this one of the races in the flyaway sequence that is about to start that Marc Márquez marked down as a huge opportunity to win, and extend his championship, considering his good record at adapting to new circuits, and if he does win, you sense that the 2018 MotoGP World Championship will be his.

2018 Japanese Grand Prix – Preview

After Lewis Hamilton took his eighth race victory of the season, and his fifth in six races, albeit in somewhat controversial circumstances in regards to team orders, the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship heads straight from Sochi to Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix, Round 17 of the championship, a championship that is heading towards the grasp of Hamilton for the fifth time.

Hamilton (306 points) leads the world championship for Mercedes by 50 points over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel (256 points), with Hamilton having achieved the same amount of points in 16 rounds that he did after 16 rounds in 2017, with Vettel having nine points than he did at the same point last year after finishing third in the Russian Grand Prix, and unless Vettel responds soon with some victories, his chances of winning the 2018 championship will have floated out the window, much to the disappointment of the Vettel and Ferrari supporters.

Behind the top two in the championship, Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas (189 points) has overtaken Vettel’s teammate Kimi Räikkönen (186 points) into third in the world championship after finishing second in Russia, which was after being ordered by his team to change positions with his teammate, while Räikkönen wasn’t really in contention for the win, or perhaps even the podium in finishing in a lonely fourth.

Besides Hamilton and Vettel, only Bottas and Räikkönen still remain in mathematical contention to win this year’s world championship.

Max Verstappen (158 points) is now out of mathematical contention for the championship in 2018 despite a storming drive from 19th on the grid to lead the race after Lap 19, and led the most laps in the race (24) on-route to finishing in a highly commendable fifth, just 31.016 seconds behind Hamilton, while his Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer teammate Daniel Ricciardo (134 points) finished in a low-key sixth from 18th on the grid after some early minor front wing damage affected his pace before his only pit-stop of the race.

Behind the top six in the championship, we have a strong five-way battle for seventh in the championship with Kevin Magnussen (53 points), Nico Hülkenberg (53 points), Fernando Alonso (50 points), Sergio Pérez (47 points), and Esteban Ocon (47 points) all separated by just six points.

As far as the Constructors’ Championship is concerned, Mercedes (495 points) have extended their lead over Ferrari (442 points) to 53 points, with Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer (292 points) in a strong third, and will be hoping to get another victory or two before the end of 2018.

Beyond the top three, Renault (91 points) are still in fourth, but have had their margin over Haas-Ferrari (80 points) narrowed to just 11 points, with McLaren-Renault (58 points) in a clear sixth. Behind them is a tight fight for seventh between Force India-Mercedes (35 points), Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (30 points), and Sauber-Ferrari (27 points), with Williams-Mercedes (seven points) looking very secure in 10th and last position in the Constructors’ Championship.

So, who will win at Suzuka?

Right now, you wouldn’t bet against Lewis Hamilton from winning the Japanese Grand Prix for a fifth time, and winning at Suzuka for the fourth time, but has only taken one pole position at Suzuka, which was last year on-route to his fourth Japanese Grand Prix victory, with his only other two pole positions in Japan coming at the Fuji Speedway in his first two years in Formula One back in 2007 and 2008.

However, it is most certainly a must win race for Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari if they want to challenge Hamilton and Mercedes for the championship, but right now, it appears to be an uphill challenge for Vettel and Ferrari.

Hamilton to take the win, and a very strong stranglehold on a fifth world championship.

 

2018 Bathurst 1000 – Preview

After 12 rounds of exciting, wheel-to-wheel racing in the 2018 Supercars Championship, the entire field heads to Mount Panorama for Australia’s Great Race, the Bathurst 1000, and after the domination at the Sandown 500 by Triple Eight Race Engineering in finishing first, second, and third with its three cars, the rest of the grid, including DJR-Team Penske will be looking to respond with glory at Australia’s spiritual home of motorsport.

Shane Van Gisbergen (3054 points) (partnered with Earl Bamber) leads the championship for Triple Eight Race Engineering by 55 points over DJR-Team Penske driver Scott McLaughlin (2999 points) (partnered with Alexandre Prémat) heading into the Bathurst 1000 after finishing second at Sandown, and is looking to win the Bathurst 1000 for the first time, while McLaughlin, who finished a disappointing fourth at Sandown, will be attempting to claw back some ground on Van Gisbergen in the championship, and claim his first victory at The Mountain.

If McLaughlin (with Prémat) wins the Bathurst 1000, and Van Gisbergen (with Bamber) finish off the podium, McLaughlin will regain the championship lead.

Jamie Whincup (2716 points) (partnered with Paul Dumbrell) is third in the championship for Triple Eight Race Engineering after winning the Sandown 500 for the fourth time (third time for Dumbrell), but the defending series champion is still 338 points behind teammate Van Gisbergen in the standings heading into the Bathurst 1000, a race that neither Whincup or Dumbrell have won since 2012, despite being fast at Mount Panorama on numerous occasions since then. Whincup will be desperate to change that record this year to keep his chances of winning an eighth championship alive.

Behind the top three in the championship are the drivers who realistically cannot challenge for the 2018 Supercars Championship, but can certainly make an impact as to who might eventually claim the title in 2018.

Craig Lowndes (2487 points) (partnered with Steven Richards) is fourth in the championship in his final full-time Supercars season. Of course the big news since the Sandown, in which Lowndes (with Richards) finished third, is that the irreplaceable three-time series champion and fan favourite will be replaced by nobody after Triple Eight Race Engineering decided that they will downgrade back to two cars in 2019. However, as a full-time driver, Lowndes will be looking to go out on a high with a seventh win at The Mountain, and perhaps challenge for a top three finish in the championship.

David Reynolds (2435 points) (partnered with Luke Youlden) is fifth in the championship for Erebus Motorsport, and has generally been in career-best form in 2018 in what has been another consistent year for last year’s Bathurst 1000 champions. However, despite achieving two wins (Race 6 and Race 16), and a further five podiums, Erebus Motorsport haven’t been able to find enough speed regularly enough to enable Reynolds to challenge Triple Eight Race Engineering and DJR-Team Penske. Reynolds will be aiming for a top five finish in the championship, which would be his best championship finish since 2015 when he finished third for Rod Nash Racing (Prodrive).

Below the top five in the championship, McLaughlin’s teammate Fabian Coulthard (2114 points) (partnered with Tony D’Alberto) is sixth in the championship after struggling to match McLaughlin’s pace for much of 2018, while Rick Kelly (2098 points) (partnered with Garry Jacobson) is seventh in the standings after gradual improvements from Nissan Motorsport, finishing in the top 10 in 12 of the last 16 races, including claiming a win at Winton, as well as a further three podiums for the 2006 series champion.

Chaz Mostert (2048 points) (partnered with James Moffat) is eighth in the championship after an awful season so far with Tickford Racing, who have struggled to challenge the front-runners regularly, with Mostert only achieving one podium in 2018, a third-place finish in Race 20 of the championship at Queensland Raceway, and it is difficult to see them challenging for the victory at Mount Panorama, but surprises do happen, but I don’t think so.

The top 10 in the championship is completed by Scott Pye (1906 points) (partnered with Warren Luff) for Walkinshaw Andretti United, who have shown flashes of speed in 2018, and Tim Slade (1862 points) (partnered with Ashley Walsh) for Brad Jones Racing.

So, who is going to win the 2018 Bathurst 1000?

It is always such a hard question to answer, but on paper, this should be a circuit that should suit DJR-Team Penske better compared to Sandown, and in all honesty, Scott McLaughlin (and Alexandre Prémat) need to win the Bathurst 1000 to keep themselves at least within striking distance because after Bathurst, because in my opinion, the only track on paper that really suits DJR-Team Penske out of the remaining races is Pukekohe Park Raceway in New Zealand. If McLaughlin loses ground to Shane Van Gisbergen at Mount Panorama, his chances of winning his first championship in 2018 would reduce significantly.

However, you would expect Triple Eight Race Engineering, given their current form, to be right up the pointy end of the field this weekend, with all three cars a chance of the victory, with Erebus Motorsport, and Nissan Motorsport being outside contenders to take the Peter Brock Trophy home.

Whatever happens, it is sure to be a cracker, but I think Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell will overcome their bad luck at The Mountain in recent years, and take the win to give Whincup a fighting chance of winning his eighth championship.