Alex Tagliani steps out of No. 98 Barracuda Honda; Filippi to test next week

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After collecting just two Top-10s in the first 13 races of this year’s IZOD IndyCar Series championship, Alex Tagliani has stepped out of the No. 98 Barracuda Racing Honda to allow the team to consider its options for the 2014 campaign – which, according to a team release, could include an expansion to a two-car program.

The French-Canadian driver will remain under contract with Barracuda through the end of the 2013 season.

“It’s never fun for a driver to not be in the car,” Tagliani said in a team release. “But I see the benefit in racing in a team with a team-mate as opposed to being a single car team. In this sport, things can turn around quickly.”

With “Tag” out of the car for now, Italy’s Luca Filippi will take the controls of the No. 98 for a test session this coming Wednesday at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, which will host the Honda 200 on Aug. 4 (3 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network).

“We’re taking this opportunity to evaluate our program as we look toward the future,” team owner Bryan Herta added. “It makes sense at this point to look at the available pool of drivers that may fit into our future plans.

“We want to thank Alex for being a team player during the process and we look forward to seeing what Luca can do during the test in Mid-Ohio.”

Filippi, who finished runner-up in the 2011 GP2 championship with three victories to his credit that year, was slated to drive for Rahal Letterman Lanigan going into 2012. However, a lack of sponsorship kept him from hitting the track.

“I’ve been working and waiting for a chance like this my whole life,” Filippi said. “I can’t wait to test the No. 98 Barracuda Racing car and hopefully make the most of this opportunity to learn firsthand about IndyCar racing.”

How Hamilton, Mercedes can clinch F1 titles at the United States GP

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Sunday’s United States Grand Prix could go down as a memorable race in Formula 1 history as both Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes bid to clinch their fourth world championships (live on NBC and NBC Sports app from 2pm ET).

Hamilton gave his chances of wrapping up the drivers’ title and re-claiming the crown he lost to Nico Rosberg in 2016 a world of good by charging to pole position on Saturday at the Circuit of The Americas.

However, with chief rival Sebastian Vettel starting second for Ferrari and a 16-point swing required, it seems likely that the title race could continue to next weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix.

Nevertheless, here are the permutations for Lewis Hamilton to win his fourth F1 world title on Sunday in Austin, Texas.

  • If Lewis Hamilton wins the race (25 points) and Sebastian Vettel finishes sixth or lower (maximum eight points), he is world champion.
  • If Hamilton finishes second (18 points), Sebastian Vettel finishes ninth or lower (maximum two points), and Valtteri Bottas does not win the race, he is world champion.

While Hamilton’s coronation seems likely to be postponed until the next race in Mexico, Mercedes looks nailed-on to wrap up its fourth consecutive constructors’ championship in Sunday’s USGP.

The German marque currently leads Ferrari by 145 points in the teams’ standings, and requires a lead of 129 after the race to clinch the crown.

As a result, a double top-four finish from Hamilton and Bottas would be enough for Mercedes to wrap up the title, regardless of how Ferrari fares.

The success would see Mercedes become just the fourth team in F1 history take four straight constructors’ titles, following Red Bull (2010 to 2013), Ferrari (1999 to 2004) and McLaren (1988 to 1991).

The United States Grand Prix is live on NBC and the NBC Sports app from 2pm ET on Sunday.