While most American motorsports fans will have their attention on Martinsville this weekend (and likely socialized healthcare, but let's avoid that here, shall we?), I thought I'd take a look at the open wheel races going on. The Izod IndyCar Series is back in the US on the streets of St. Pete, and Formula 1 is down under at Albert Park in Melbourne, always a fan and driver favorite.
Honda GP of St. Petersburg
The season began two weeks ago in Brazil. After problems with slick concrete on the Sambadrome straighaway, dust problems due to grinding of said straightaway, and a downpour of near biblical proportions, the inaugural Sao Paulo Indy 300 managed to survive and provide a decent season opener. After all the obsticals, Ryan Briscoe found himself with the lead late, but missed turn 5 with time running out, and went head on into the tire barrier. This put the race in the hands of Ryan Hunter-Reay, arguably the strongest of the day, and Will Power. In the end, it Was power taking the lead 3 laps from the finish, Hunter-Reay was second, and Vitor Meir was third, the class of the 7 Brazilians in their home country.
This week it's back to the states, but another street course. Power, the street race wizard, is once again the favorite. This week is also Graham Rahal's return after missing the opener due to lack of sponsorship. He'll be in Sarah Fisher's car for the next two races, and is then believed to return to Newman-Haas-Lanigan for the remainder of the season. Look for him to have a strong showing. He has a win and a 7th place in his two St. Pete races, as well as a pole. Other Contenders will surely be Dario Franchitti and Helio Castroneves, who both had mild let downs in Sao Paulo, and Ryan Hunter-Reay, runner up two weeks ago as well as last year at St. Pete. Alex Tagliani I think could suprise some people. He qualified 2nd for the opener, but never had a chance to make anything of it, getting tangled with Dan Wheldon and Tony Kanaan while running 5th, ruining his day. My pick however, is Briscoe. I think he'll rebound from the mistake at Sao Paulo to repeat as St. Petersburg winner. Here is my podium:
1. Ryan Briscoe
2. Dario Franchitti
3. Justin Wilson
Qantas Australian Grand Prix
It was a rather ho-hum beginning to the next era of no refuelling. It what has been dubbed the Bore-rain GP, Sebastian Vettel in the sharp looking RB6, appeared to have the field easily beaten. However, with Ferrari teammates Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, Vettel went broken. It was believed he broke a header, but turned out to be a faulty spark plug. That was it for drama, as Alonso and Massa went by to take an easy Ferarri 1-2. Vettel amazingly salvaged 4th behind the other podium finisher, Lewis hamilton.
This weekend in Australia, Vettel appears to be the favorite, along with the Ferarris once again. The McClaren team of Hamilton and Button (last season's Australia winner) was fastest in a wet practice session though, and wet weather is expected for the race. Expect those two to be strong. Mark Webber was 3rd in that session, and looks to have his first great showing in front of his home fans. A great darkhorse pick (20:1 if you're a gambler) would be Nico Rosberg. Running alongside The Stig, Michael Schumacher at a plenty fast Merceds GP team seems to be more than enough motivation for him. He was 5th in Bahrain, and has finished 7th, 3rd, and 6th in his last three Australian GPs. I think the stars could be lining up for him to take is first ever GP. But my prediction for the podium looks like this:
1. Lewis Hamilton
2. Sebastian Vettel
3. Nico Rosberg
Again, there is a lot of criticism from fans, drivers, and team officials alike about the refuelling ban and the quality of the races (although I firmly believe the issues run deeper, which I will likely get into soon), but most are also in a wait and see mode, and are optimistic about a better GP this week
If you hung around to read my first blog, thank you and enjoy the weekend, however you choose to spend it.
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