Pagenaud paces Saturday morning Long Beach practice

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Simon Pagenaud led IndyCar’s final practice session before qualifying at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The Frenchman lapped the 1.968-mile street circuit in 1:08.0960, more than 1.4 seconds quicker than the fastest times on Friday and still on the Firestone black tires.

Pole time should be in the low 1:07s, perhaps high 1:06 range, once teams have the option to run the softer, alternate, Firestone reds.

Times tumbled at the end of the session as Will Power, Mike Conway, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Graham Rahal all posted their fastest laps at the end of the session to complete the top five.

The session was interrupted for two red flags, both involving Team Penske drivers. Power made contact in Turn 1 and damaged his rear wing, while Helio Castroneves had slight mechanical issues and dropped back. He returned to the track but also had a lazy spin at the end of practice.

Qualifying begins at 5 p.m. EST with TV coverage on at 6 p.m. EST on the NBC Sports Network. Live streaming for Sunday’s race will be available online at http://stream.nbcsports.com/liveextra/.

Qualifying groups for the three rounds of knockout qualifying are below, via INDYCAR:

Group 1                  Group 2
#17 Mike Conway          #1 Ryan Hunter-Reay
#55 Tristan Vautier (R)  #12 Will Power
#16 James Jakes          #3 Helio Castroneves
#10 Dario Franchitti     #98 Alex Tagliani
#14 Takuma Sato          #27 James Hinchcliffe
#19 Justin Wilson        #78 Simona de Silvestro
#15 Graham Rahal         #9 Scott Dixon
#77 Simon Pagenaud       #67 Josef Newgarden
#7 Sebastien Bourdais    #25 Marco Andretti
#11 Tony Kanaan          #4 JR Hildebrand
#5 E.J. Viso             #2 AJ Allmendinger
#18 Ana Beatriz          #83 Charlie Kimball
#6 Sebastian Saavedra    #22 Oriol Servia
                         #20 Ed Carpenter

F1 Mexican Grand Prix on NBC, NBCSN, App this week

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Lewis Hamilton is poised to wrap his fourth Formula 1 World Championship early at this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix, as NBC Sports covers the 18th of 20 rounds this season from the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.

Expanded TV coverage comes this weekend on NBC, NBCSN and the NBC Sports App.

All sessions will air live. Both Friday practice sessions are live on NBCSN at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. ET. Saturday third practice airs live via the NBC Sports App at 11 a.m. ET with a practice replay show at 12:30 p.m. before live qualifying at 2 p.m. ET, those two on NBCSN.

On Sunday, race day, F1 Countdown starts at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC leading to lights out and the race at 3 p.m. ET. Post-race coverage continues on NBC for one hour, from 5 to 6 p.m. ET.

Mercedes AMG Petronas has won both Mexican Grands Prix since the race was reinstated in 2015 after a 23-year hiatus. Nico Rosberg won in 2015 a race after Hamilton had clinched that year’s title, while Hamilton won last year in a 1-2 with Rosberg continuing to close on his first title.

Controversy reined about third place in Mexico last year with all of Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen and ultimately Daniel Ricciardo ending in third, Ricciardo getting the podium after post-race penalties were assessed to the other two. Valtteri Bottas is the other active podium finisher in Mexico, having come third in 2015 with Williams.

Vettel enters Mexico 66 points behind Hamilton and can only keep the title alive to Brazil if he gets the gap under 50 points; any top-five finish for Hamilton will ensure the Englishman equals Vettel on four titles. So if Vettel doesn’t finish first or second, he can’t score enough points (either 25 or 18) to get that gap under 50 markers.

Last year’s race featured a bit of a “Noah’s Ark” finishing order with just the top five teams in the championship scoring points at this race, almost in descending order of just two-by-two. It was two Mercedes, then two Red Bulls, then two Ferraris, then Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India before the two Williams, and finally hometown hero Sergio Perez in the second Force India.

Perez is the lone home favorite this race with Esteban Gutierrez not on the grid this season.

Here’s the F1 schedule, with stream links and TV network if applicable:

  • Practice 1: Friday, Oct. 27, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Practice 2: Friday, Oct. 27, 3 p.m.-4:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Practice 3: Saturday, Oct. 28, 11 a.m.-12 p.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Practice 3 (Replay): Saturday, Oct. 28, 12:30 p.m.-2 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Qualifying: Saturday, Oct. 28, 2 p.m.-3:45 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Pre-Race: Sunday, Oct. 29, 2:30 p.m.-3 p.m. ET (NBC)
  • Race: Sunday, Oct. 29, 3 p.m.-5 p.m. ET (NBC)
  • Post-Race: Sunday, Oct. 29, 5 p.m.-6 p.m. ET (NBC)
  • Race (Replay): Sunday, Oct. 29, 8:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)

The next race is the Brazilian Grand Prix, on November 12.