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MotorSportsTalk’s predictions: Malaysian GP

Mar 27, 2014, 9:15 AM EDT

Red Bull Formula One driver Vettel speaks to journalists ahead of the Malaysian F1 Grand Prix at Sepang International Circuit outside Kuala Lumpur Reuters

It would be wrong to say that the V6 era of Formula 1 “roared” into life two Sundays ago in Australia, but the new season began in dramatic fashion as the favorites struggled and the newbies flourished. Now, the teams are ready for this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix at the Sepang International Circuit, but has the fashion in which Nico Rosberg won the last race made these predictions any easier for our experts? Don’t count on it…

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race winner: Nico Rosberg. He did it in Australia, and he’ll do it again this weekend. I felt rather smug after picking him for Australia, truth be told, but he proved that he has what it takes to dominate races; I expect him to impress once again this weekend.

Surprising finish: Sebastian Vettel. Despite Red Bull’s disastrous start to the season in Australia, there is no denying that the RB10 is a quick car. Maybe not ‘Mercedes-quick’, but still quick. Expect the three-time Malaysian GP winner to bounce back this weekend.

Most to prove: Sauber. Did anyone actually notice Esteban Gutierrez and Adrian Sutil in Australia? Both drivers need to show what they can really do in Malaysia. Or, you know, actually get on TV. That helps.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race winner: Jenson Button. Making a bit of a surprise pick here, but here’s my rationale: it’s notoriously hot in Malaysia but could rain too. Both play into his advantage; he’s good on conserving tires and has also been decent in the rain. A past Malaysian GP winner when it ended early too, and the McLaren seems a better prospect this year. 

Surprising finish: Valtteri Bottas. Going with the Williams driver to score his first career podium finish at the same track where fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen won his first GP.

Most to prove: Lotus. Double Q1 elimination at Melbourne and with little time to upgrade before Malaysia, here’s hoping that Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado are closer to the ballpark this weekend.

Christopher Estrada (@estradawriting)

Race winner: Lewis HamiltonMercedes says it has spent its downtime post-Australia focusing on the W05’s reliability. That’ll be good news for Hamilton, who was forced to bow out in the opening laps at Melbourne with an engine problem. He’s never won at Malaysia but he’s been close in recent years with a pair of thirds in 2012 and 2013. This year, he ascends to the top step.

Surprising finish: Sergio Perez. Checo’s race in Oz was altered dramatically by first-lap contact that forced him to race from behind all day. If he can get a clean start this weekend, the Mexican could be in good shape to be higher up in the points-paying bracket.

Most to prove: Kevin Magnussen and Daniil Kvyat. Both had a successful first Grand Prix, with Magnussen hitting the podium and Kvyat earning some points. But Malaysia’s heat and humidity are going to be a big challenge for them and fellow greenhorn Marcus Ericsson. Should their equipment hold up, it’ll be interesting to see how they themselves will do that in the cockpit as the race wears on.

Jerry Bonkowski (@JerryBonkowski)

Race winner: Sebastian Vettel. Yes, he had a bad start to the season at Australia, but it’s hard to pick against a guy who has won 3 of last 4 in Malaysia. But watch out for Fernando Alonso, he’s just as good there, too. 

Surprising finish: Daniel Ricciardo. After being disqualified at Australia, Daniel Ricciardo will come back with a vengeance at Malaysia. I expect nothing less than a podium finish, if not a win.

Most to prove: Sebastian Vettel, again. With all the negative press Red Bull got in the preseason, plus Vettel’s poor run at Melbourne, he needs to prove he’s still the best in F1. Also, don’t forget Louis Hamilton; he’s in the same boat as Vettel when it comes to bouncing back from Australia.

  1. testover6370 - Mar 27, 2014 at 11:28 AM

    I came to see if Jerry would double down on Vettel based solely on performance under an entirely different set of regulations. I was not disappointed.

    • Jerry Bonkowski - Mar 28, 2014 at 12:46 AM

      Even with different rules and regulations, a true champion overcomes change and reinvents himself to become champion again, and I believe that will be the case this year for Vettel as well as possibly Lewis Hamilton.

      Look at people like NASCAR’s Jimmie Johnson and NHRA’s John Force, Johnson won even after the switch to the COT and then the Gen 6. Force kept winning even after NASCAR shortened dragstrips and installed new safety equipment — not to mention came back after nearly being killed in a wreck seven years ago to once again be the best in the business — even at the age of 64.

      Together, Johnson and Force have overcome so much to earn a combined 22 championships and 205 national event/race wins between them (139 wins by Force, 66 by Johnson).

      Who else can say that?

      And lastly, another reason why Vettel will bounce back: have you forgotten in the last five seasons, starting with a runner-up season finish in 2009 and then four consecutive championships from 2010-13, not to mention earning 38 of his 39 career F1 wins in that time, he also overcame a lot of changes during that same period, and still ultimately succeeded being the best of the best.

      It took Johnson and Force a few races almost every season there was changes in their respective sports before they got back on track, and I feel the exact same way about Vettel and for the most part, Hamilton.

      You can thank me for the lesson I imparted to you at the end of the season. And remind me then where to send my bill for services rendered LOL.

  2. worknman24hours - Mar 27, 2014 at 11:15 PM

    Race winner Daniel Ricciardo after ignoring the final pit signal.

    Vettel a very angry third place.

    Lewis Hamilton in second and Nico Rosberg in fourth.

    Hulkenberg a surprise fifth place all over Rosberg for the last five laps.

    Rosberg’s sublime calm the only thing that keeps him from losing fourth place.

  3. redrock81 - Mar 28, 2014 at 12:48 AM

    Vettel DNF. Alonso podium. One of the Mercedes guys in the top spot.

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