Alonso on a quest for history in Monte Carlo (VIDEO)

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Ever since its creation in 1929 on the streets of Monte Carlo, the Monaco Grand Prix has rewarded the best of the best.

The list of people that have won it multiple times is a veritable galaxy of Formula One stars, past and present: Ayrton Senna, six wins; Graham Hill and Michael Schumacher, five each; Alain Prost, four; Stirling Moss and Jackie Stewart, three; and seven more with two wins apiece.

The fact that all of these drivers were able to handle a course as difficult as Monaco multiple times over speaks to how great they were and still are.

Five of Senna’s six victories in Monte Carlo were consecutive from 1989 to 1993, and he had eight podiums in 10 overall starts there. From 1984 to 1983, he and Prost were the only drivers to win the race. Then there’s Hill, whose five wins in the Principality nearly made up half of the total win count over his career (there’s a reason why he was dubbed “Mr. Monaco” in his heyday). Schumacher took up the baton in the mid-1990s and kept making his mark on the circuit into the new millennium, while Moss and Stewart dominated primarily in the ’60s and ’70s.

Amongst the group of two-time victors (a group that also features immortals like Juan Manuel Fangio and Niki Lauda) is Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who roars into the Principality on the strength of a clutch victory at Barcelona that bolstered his championship hopes. He still has a long way to go to catch the great Senna as the ultimate king of Monaco, but this weekend, he has the chance to do something neither Senna or anyone else has done: Win the Monaco GP three times with three different squads.

In 2006, Alonso took advantage of pole position (which he achieved after Schumacher was penalized for impeding the Spaniard’s progress during the last moments of qualifying) and won for Renault. Then in 2007, Alonso, who had moved over to McLaren that season, again converted pole into victory ahead of then-teammate Lewis Hamilton in a 1-2 finish for the team.

Monaco has been good to Alonso lately, with back-to-back podiums achieved in his last two runs in Formula One’s most famous race. But can he go one step further and put himself into the record books again this weekend?

Altogether, the Prancing Horse has been thirsty in the Principality for quite some time; Ferrari has not won the Monaco GP since Schumacher’s win in 2001.

‘Game-changing’ multi-year agreement will take INDYCAR, NBC Sports ‘to the next level’


NEW YORK – As the fourth Nor’easter in three weeks bore down on the Big Apple, it was tough to spot people that were clearly in a good mood.

But Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN, was clearly in a good mood.

On Wednesday morning at 10 am ET, we all found out why: NBC will become the exclusive home of the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, starting in 2019.

The new three-year deal not only makes “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” part of the network’s “Championship Season” – its collection of high-profile championship events from May to July – but also reaffirms NBC’s status as the home of motorsports television in the United States.

That status is something Miller doesn’t take for granted.

“It’s important people know that storytelling is in our DNA, and motorsports lends itself very well to storytelling,” Miller said as he, INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles and driver James Hinchcliffe made a snowy trek to the New York Stock Exchange to promote the deal on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

“We’ve had great success with the second half of the entire NASCAR season, and then we’ve had half of the IndyCar package [since 2009] … But we never had the real meat of the series and that didn’t set anybody up for success.

“Having the entire package of IndyCar now – all 17 races, qualifying, practice, you name it – really sets IndyCar on a strong path and solidifies NBC’s position as the home of motorsports. I think it becomes a property much like the Premier League, the NHL, and even the Olympics and the Triple Crown. We have 100 percent of the media opportunity and we can put all those great assets behind it.”

With the storm no doubt keeping some traders home, the floor of the NYSE was relatively subdued. But that made it no less important to be at the heart of Wall Street. Miles and his team are pursuing a new title sponsor for the IndyCar Series to replace Verizon, which will fully focus its efforts in the series with the powerhouse Team Penske going forward in 2019.

The new deal – which includes 8 races per year on the NBC network (with the remaining races going to NBCSN), live streaming of all races, and a direct-to-consumer package with NBC Sports Gold – gave Miles plenty to push for any potential backers. As for Hinchcliffe, he held his own nicely in an interview that also explored IndyCar’s global ambitions, the impact of technology on the sport, and of course, his spin around the ballroom on “Dancing with the Stars.”

On the ride back to 30 Rock, Miles was confident that NBC can play a big role in attracting a sponsor that can help the series keep growing.

“With respect to our work in finding the best title sponsor, it’s really important – and this has not been talked about much – but we expect to work with hand in glove with NBC’s sales,” he explained. “We have the opportunity to create packages which are both broadcast sponsorship and series sponsorship, I think, in a way that doesn’t come along very often.

“Usually, the media deal and the sponsorship deal doesn’t align like this, so we’re really excited about the offering we’ll have and the approach to the market we can take.”

Should the partnership with NBC bear fruit on that front and others, it will only add to the upswing that the IndyCar Series has had in recent years.

Hinchcliffe has been a witness to that. He entered the series in 2011, when it was trying to find its footing after the sport’s reunification three years earlier. After 13 years of CART vs. the Indy Racing League, getting everything back under one roof was not a smooth process.

But fast-forward seven years, and things have changed for the better. TV ratings and digital viewers have gone up. Race scheduling has become more stable and enhanced with the return of traditional open-wheel markets. And this year’s debut of the universal aero kit aims to pump up the action on the track, while also giving the cars a cleaner, meaner look.

Now, with NBC all in, Hinchcliffe is bullish on his sport’s future.

“This is a game-changing thing for us,” he declared. “If you look at the last four or five years, we’ve seen a steady growth in pretty much every measureable metric that there is – in a time where, globally, motorsports is in a bit of a downturn.

“The fact that IndyCar was able to rally against a global dip in motorsports interest, attendance, sponsorship – it speaks volumes to what we have been doing and this is just gonna take us to that next level.”