James Hinchcliffe gets into his car during practice for the Indianapolis 500 in Indianapolis.

NBCSN to feature 19 hours of coverage surrounding Indy 500 qualifying

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NBC Sports Network presents 19 hours of coverage surrounding the Indianapolis 500, including live qualifying, Carb Day, Indy Lights, an IndyCar 36 episode, and the Indy 500 Parade. Live qualifying coverage begins this Saturday, May 18 at 11 a.m. ET, continues through Saturday, and returns on Sunday, May 19 at noon ET. Qualifying coverage is highlighted by the NBC Sports Network broadcast debut of former IndyCar driver and 2003 Indy 500 winner Gil de Ferran. Thoughts from de Ferran on his win and on new IndyCar President of Competition/Operations Derrick Walker can be found on MotorSportsTalk.

In addition, NBC Sports Network presents live coverage of Carb Day, the last practice before the race, with the return of renowned motorsports voice Bob Jenkins. Coverage begins on Friday, May 24, at 11 a.m. ET, continues with Indy Lights at noon ET, and is followed by more Carb Day coverage. The premier of IndyCar 36 featuring driver Simona de Silvestro airs at 10:30 p.m. ET that night.

NBC Sports Network concludes its coverage on Saturday, May 25, with the Indy 500 Parade live at 5 p.m. ET.

NBC Sports Network’s Indy 500 Qualifying Coverage (subject to change, all times ET):

Date Coverage Time Commentators
Sat., May 18 Qualifying 11 a.m. Leigh Diffey, Gil de Ferran, Jon Beekhuis, Kevin Lee, Marty Snider, Robin Miller, Will Buxton
Sat., May 18 Qualifying 4:30 p.m. Leigh Diffey, Gil de Ferran, Jon Beekhuis, Kevin Lee, Marty Snider, Robin Miller, Will Buxton
Sun., May 19 Qualifying Noon Leigh Diffey, Gil de Ferran, Jon Beekhuis, Kevin Lee, Marty Snider, Robin Miller, Will Buxton
Fri., May 24 Carb Day 11 a.m. Bob Jenkins, Jon Beekhuis, Wally Dallenbach, Kevin Lee, Martin Snider, Robin Miller
Fri., May 24 Indy Lights Noon Mike King, Jake Query
Fri., May 24 Carb Day 1 p.m. Bob Jenkins, Jon Beekhuis, Wally Dallenbach, Kevin Lee, Martin Snider, Robin Miller
Fri., May 24 IndyCar 36: Simona de Silvestro 10:30 p.m.
Sat., May 25 Indy 500 Parade 5 p.m. Bob Jenkins, Diane Willis, Kevin Lee

QUALIFYING COMMENTATORS: Former IndyCar driver Gil de Ferran joins NBC Sports Network’s team as an analyst this weekend 10 years after his Indy 500 win. de Ferran is filling in for NBC Sports Network IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell, who is attempting to qualify for his seventh Indy 500. In 2009, Bell finished fourth in the race.

Sharing the booth with de Ferran includes play-by-play announcer Leigh Diffey and analyst Jon Beekhuis. Diffey is working IndyCar this weekend, but will travel abroad next week to call the Monaco Grand Prix. Veterans Kevin Lee and Marty Snider manage the pits, and are joined by reporters Robin Miller and Will Buxton, the Formula One reporter who is making his inaugural trip to the Brickyard.

Coverage on Sunday will feature Bell driving first-timer Buxton around the oval at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a two-seater.

CARB DAY COMMENTATORS: Legendary motorsports voice Bob Jenkins returns to the booth for Carb Day on Friday, May 24, filling in for Diffey, who will be at Monaco. Jenkins will be joined byBeekhuis and race analyst and former NASCAR driver Wally Dallenbach, Jr. Veterans Lee,Snider and Miller will manage the pits.

Mike King will call Indy Lights on Friday, May 24, alongside Jake Query.

Jenkins, Diane Willis and Lee will host Indy 500 Parade coverage on Saturday, May 25 at 5 p.m. ET.

DIFFEY ON INDY 500 QUALIFYING: “The way this year’s IZOD IndyCar Series has gone, who can’t be excited about the Indy 500 Pole Day? This time last year, Penske Racing had dominated all four opening rounds of the series and led the championship. This year they haven’t won a race, nor has defending Indy 500 winner Chip Ganassi Racing, and there have been two first-time winners from the first four races. It’s a season of surprise.”

INDYCAR 36NBC Sports Network offers motorsports fans another episode of the all-access series IndyCar 36. This week the cameras follow driver Simona de Silvestro, who made history by becoming the first woman to earn a podium spot at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2006.

The NBC Sports Network original series is produced by IMS Productions and gives viewers an all-access pass into the life of a world-class driver in the middle of race season. The cameras will follow a driver for 36 hours during a race weekend providing a behind-the-scenes look at the on- and off-track activities of the stars of the IndyCar Series. The all-access 36 series also includes NHL 36, Fight Night 36 and F1 36.

INDYCAR ON NBC SPORTS LIVE EXTRA: NBC Sports Live Extra — NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices, and tablets — will live stream Indy 500 qualifying on Saturday and Sunday, May 18-19, Carb Day and Indy Lights on Friday, May 24, and the Indy 500 Parade on Saturday, May 25. Coverage will be streamed via “TV Everywhere,” the media industry’s effort to make quality content available to authenticated customers both in and out of the home and on multiple platforms.

For desktops, NBC Sports Live Extra can be accessed at NBCSports.com/liveextra. The NBC Sports Live Extra app for mobile devices and tablets is available at the App Store for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, and on select Android handset and tablet devices within Google Play.

Coverage airing on NBC Sports Network will live stream to PCs, mobile devices and tablets throughNBC Sports Live Extra, and to the digital platforms of participating cable, satellite, and telco services, via “TV Everywhere,” which is available on an authenticated basis to subscribers of participating MVPDs.

INDYCAR ON MOTORSPORTSTALK: MotorSportsTalk (@MotorSportsTalk) on NBCSports.com brings racing fans up-to-the-minute news, video and information on the IZOD IndyCar Series, Formula One™, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and all other motorsports racing from around the world. The site also serves as the destination for all news, analysis and video from NBC and NBC Sports Network productions of IndyCar and F1, including contributions from on-air commentators.

MotorSportsTalk’s content is provided by top racing journalists and expert analysts, including:

  • Tony DiZinno (@TonyDiZinno), who has written for RACER Magazine and has covered IndyCar and NASCAR since 2006;
  • Writer Christopher Estrada (@estradawriting) who has written for the Boston Globe, FoxSports.com, created the Indy Racing Revolution blog and is a contributor to IndyCar’s IndyCar Nation blog.

Rosberg wary of engine power deficit in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 27:  Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP drives during practice for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 27, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Nico Rosberg is anticipating a tough weekend in Abu Dhabi due to a deficit in engine power caused by the high mileage on his current unit.

Rosberg and the Mercedes team have managed to avoid any engine-related grid penalties in 2015 by keeping within the limit of four power units per season.

By doing so, Mercedes has been forced into extending the milage of its engines, with a failure for Rosberg at the Italian Grand Prix in September having a knock-on effect at the end of the season.

Rosberg therefore arrives in Abu Dhabi with an engine down on power that makes him wary of his chances despite leading practice on Friday.

“It’s been a good start here in Abu Dhabi, but it will be a tough weekend for me as I have quite a high mileage engine in my car,” Rosberg said.

“After the Monza problem, we have had to stretch the engine life more than we had planned over the 19 races, so I definitely have a small lack of power on the straights and therefore need to make up extra time in the corners.

“It will be a big battle with Lewis here. He didn’t really bring together his quick laps, so it will be even closer tomorrow I’m sure. I’m looking forward to it and I definitely want to win this race and give the boys in the garage a reason to celebrate at the end of the season.”

On the other side of the Mercedes garage, world champion Lewis Hamilton was left unhappy with Mercedes’ long-run pace in practice, believing that there is ground to be made up.

“The long run pace doesn’t feel quite as strong so that’s something I need to work on,” Hamilton said. “I’ll probably make some more tweaks tonight and hopefully tomorrow it will be better.

“It’s very hard to overtake here, so of course it’s better to be up on pole. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to win from further back.”

Renault: Lotus announcement “very likely” next week

xxxx during practice for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 27, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
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Renault Formula 1 chief Cyril Abiteboul has said that the French manufacturer expects to make an announcement regarding its pending takeover of Lotus next week.

Renault has been engaged in negotiations with Lotus over a takeover of the team for many months, and signed a letter of intent back in September confirming its plans to revive a works F1 operation at Enstone.

Although a deal is still yet to be formally agreed and announced, Renault employees have already started working at Lotus to lay the foundations for 2016.

It was speculated that Renault may announce its takeover of Lotus during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend, but Abiteboul confirmed on Friday that nothing would be made official at Yas Marina.

The Frenchman remained coy when asked what exactly Renault’s involvement in F1 would entail in 2016, saying: “I’m afraid I can’t answer to that question. I would like to be in a position to be able to answer to that questions, but I am not today.”

Despite there being no announcement in Abu Dhabi, Abiteboul said that he envisages one being made next week following the conclusion of the 2015 season.

“What I can say is that there will be no announcement regarding Renault’s future – short-term or middle-term future – over the weekend, but there will be an announcement, very likely, in the course of next week,” he said.

“We have always said that we would like to do that after the season. The season is ending on Sunday, around the start of December and that is what we will do stick to that plan, which is to make an announcement then.”

Abiteboul said that every effort was being made to finalize the deal with Lotus, but he is excited about the prospect of Renault returning to F1 with a works team for the first time since 2010.

“It’s fair to say that there is a process going on since the signing of the letter of interest on the 28th of September, there is a process involving a lot of people,” Abiteboul said.

“I think 50 people have been working night and day on the realisation of a possible acquisition of a majority stake in Lotus. It’s just a project, It’s been a proper rollercoaster, very exciting.”

Vettel, Raikkonen take on world’s fastest rollercoaster in Abu Dhabi (VIDEO)

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Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen both live life at high-speed racing in Formula 1, but how would they get on when faced with the fastest rollercoaster in the world?

To celebrate the fifth birthday of Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, Vettel and Raikkonen took on the Formula Rossa rollercoaster alongside reserve driver Esteban Gutierrez and other members of the Ferrari team.

Raikkonen is known for being the ‘Iceman’ and showing little emotion, and this was true even at the fastest points of the rollercoaster ride as he kept a straight face while Vettel raised his arms and whooped with excitement.

Never change, Kimi…

Alonso: Tough year with McLaren “necessary”

xxxx during practice for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 27, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
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Fernando Alonso believes that his tough 2015 Formula 1 campaign with McLaren was a “necessary” stage within his racing career.

Alonso left Ferrari at the end of 2014 after five seasons with the Italian marque to rejoin McLaren ahead of its new partnership with Japanese manufacturer Honda.

McLaren-Honda enjoyed immense success in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but 2015 has proven to be a stark juxtaposition thanks to numerous problems with the power unit.

The issues have limited Alonso to just two top-ten finishes in 2015, yielding 11 points to leave him a lowly 17th in the drivers’ championships.

However, the Spaniard was upbeat when reflecting on the season in spite of McLaren’s troubles, believing it to be an important stepping stone.

“Well, tough year, obviously difficult and struggling with the pace all year and the reliability, so definitely a difficult season for us,” Alonso conceded.

“But personally I think it was necessary. It was a step forward in my career after the two championships, after five fantastic seasons fighting for the world championship but arriving second, so I needed some new motivation, some new project that I could trust and I could believe is the only way to become champion again.

“After one difficult season, as I said, I learn so much. I enjoy working with McLaren, with Honda, with all the Japanese discipline and Japanese culture into the team.

“I still remain very positive. I’m very, very happy and looking forward to next year being a little bit easier than this one that, as I said, has been difficult in terms of results.”

Looking ahead to 2016, Alonso expects McLaren to make progress and move up the grid, but is unsure whether it will make enough of a leap forward to challenge for race wins once again.

“At the moment there’s a question mark, I guess, where McLaren-Honda can be next year,” Alonso said.

“There are a lot of expectations in the team. I think we worked really all season, being united in some difficult moments and always moving forward, so I think for 2016 the main goal for the team is to come back to where we belong, we think, and being competitive, fighting for the top positions.

“I don’t know if that means fighting for the championship, I don’t know if that means fighting for victories of just being on the podium sometimes, that’s always difficult to know in a very complex sport like Formula One.

“There are definitely some big challenges ahead in this winter and I see all the things that the team has done in the last couple of months and these seem very logical, very positive and I’m confident that it’s going to be a completely different season next year and I’m happy with the progress.”