After narrow loss, Sato looks ahead to Indy 500

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Despite losing a heart-pounding battle with James Hinchcliffe in the Sao Paulo Indy 300, runner-up Takuma Sato still had a great day on multiple fronts and proved that his victory two weeks ago at Long Beach was no fluke.

Sato vigorously defended his lead during the final laps and his moves against both Hinchcliffe and eventual fifth-place finisher Josef Newgarden raised some eyebrows. Nonetheless, he stayed ahead on a set of tires that were almost 40 laps old until the very last corner, where Hinchcliffe got by him on the inside and went on to take the win.

“I had the same tire [for the] last 35, 37 laps — really much longer than we predicted,” Sato said. “I was really struggling on the grip the last laps.  I really had to deal with a lot of things.

“The last few laps was great fun from a driver’s point of view.  It’s a real pity that I lost it on the final lap of the race on the final corner. But that shows how we are competitive…A win would be great, but otherwise, I really fought hard on the track today and I’m really proud of the whole team. The guys did a great job.”

With Helio Castroneves’ down day on the track this afternoon, Sato’s runner-up finish has put him on top of the IZOD IndyCar Series championship by 13 points over Marco Andretti going into the Indianapolis 500. He also earned his second consecutive podium in Brazil, having finished third for Rahal Letterman Lanigan there last year.

Sato crashed on the final lap of last year’s “500” while attempting a pass at Turn 1 for the lead on Dario Franchitti. Even so, his recent success has him believing that he can be a threat once again at the Brickyard.

“The team [has spent] a long time [preparing] from the wintertime to get to Indianapolis,” he said. “So does everyone else, so we will see. We [will] see how we build up for the month of May. I have great confidence of the team doing a great job at the ‘500’.”

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.