Mario Andretti joins NBCSN’s F1 coverage from Monza this weekend

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Racing fans will be treated to the voice of one of the greatest drivers of all-time this weekend. Mario Andretti will join NBCSN’s coverage of the Formula One Italian Grand Prix from historic Monza for pre-race, race and post-race broadcasts as a guest analyst.

Andretti won at Monza in 1977 and also clinched the 1978 Formula One World Championship there . Andretti’s distinguished list of awards and accomplishments include Driver of the Century honors by both the Associated Press and RACER Magazine, and over 100 victories during his five-decade career.

NBCSN’s comprehensive coverage of the Italian Grand Prix begins on Friday morning with live coverage of practice at 8 a.m. ET. Qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix will also air live on Saturday morning at 8 a.m. ET. Live pre-race coverage of the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday begins at 7:30 a.m. ET, with the race slated to begin at 8 a.m. ET. F1 Extra, NBC Sports Group’s half-hour post-race show, will air immediately following the conclusion of the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday. All are also available on NBC Sports Live Extra live streaming.

Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) cruised to victory in the Shell Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps on Aug. 25, increasing his lead atop the F1 Points Standings over Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) to 46 points with eight races left in the 2013 campaign. Vettel and Alonso have each won the Italian Grand Prix twice; Vettel won in 2008 and 2011, while Alonso took the checkered flag in 2007 and 2010. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) currently sits in third place (139 pts) in the F1 Points Standings, and took first place at the Italian Grand Prix last year.

Here’s Andretti on the experience and the current state of play in F1:

Andretti on joining NBCSN’s Formula One telecast: “I’m flattered to have been asked, and I’m looking forward to joining NBCSN’s iconic team of Formula One announcers. I hope they don’t expect too much because I’m a real rookie – I’ve only done one or two races, and I was paying attention to my son (former Formula One and IndyCar driver) Michael most of the time.”

Andretti on personal significance of Italian Grand Prix: “The Italian Grand Prix has particular significance and importance for me, being Italian and having seen my very first Formula One race right there at Monza. At that point, I can say my real dream of becoming a race car driver began.”

Andretti on the state of Formula One: “Formula One is really enjoying its glory days. It’s probably as well-positioned and interesting as ever. You have five world champions competing at the same time, all young enough to have long careers. The level of talent is probably unprecedented.”

In addition to its live coverage of the Italian Grand Prix, NBCSN’s more than 15 hours of motorsports coverage this weekend will also include TRANSLOGIC and Mobil 1 The GridA full release of NBCSN’s motorsports coverage this weekend is linked here, via the NBC Sports Group Press Box website.

Date Coverage Network Time (ET)
Thur., September 5 TRANSLOGIC: Green Garage Gods NBCSN 11 p.m.
TRANSLOGIC: DeLorean DMC-12 NBCSN 11:30 p.m.
Fri., September 6 Mobil 1 The Grid NBCSN 12 a.m.
F1 Italian Grand Prix – Practice NBCSN 8 a.m.
TRANSLOGIC: Green Garage Gods (Encore) NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Sat., September 7 TRANSLOGIC: DeLorean DMC-12 (Encore) NBCSN 12 a.m.
F1 Italian Grand Prix – Practice (Encore) NBCSN 12:30 a.m.
Mobil 1 The Grid (Encore) NBCSN 2 a.m.
F1 Italian Grand Prix – Qualifying NBCSN 8 a.m.
Sun., September 8 F1 Italian Grand Prix – Qualifying (Encore) NBCSN 12:30 a.m.
F1 Italian Grand Prix NBCSN 7:30 a.m.
F1 Extra NBCSN 10 a.m.
F1 Italian Grand Prix (Encore) NBCSN 1 p.m.
F1 Extra (Encore) NBCSN 3:30 p.m.

Hamilton and Vettel already focused on 2018 F1 title battle

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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Championship rivals Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel are already looking forward to fighting each other for a fifth Formula One title next year.

With Hamilton wrapping up this year’s title two races ago, the pressure is off this week at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Both are projecting to 2018, where the four-time champions get back to the serious business of trying to catch Argentine great Juan Manuel Fangio on five titles.

“Certainly we will never match him in how successful he was in such a short space of time,” Vettel said on Thursday at a news conference. “Back then racing was different. The cars were not that reliable and he still managed to be successful. (He was) the best we’ve ever had in terms of putting it all together and skill.”

Only Michael Schumacher with seven titles has won more than Fangio, who drove in F1 from 1950-58.

“It was the most dangerous period of time in motorsport. I feel honored to be so close to such a great sporting icon,” Hamilton said of Fangio. “He should be celebrated more for his success. He’s not mentioned a huge amount. He’s kind of the godfather of the sport for the drivers.”

Some may come to revere Hamilton like that in time.

He has won 62 races – second only to Schumacher’s 91 – and holds the record for pole positions with 72. The 32-year-old British driver has won three of the past four titles – losing to Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in 2016 – and was at the peak of his powers this season.

After trailing Vettel at the halfway point, he pulled away after the summer break and leads the German driver by 43 points.

Hamilton is arguably the fiercest competitor around and is already thinking about how Vettel plans to turn the tables.

“Whatever weakness Sebastian had, he’ll work on those over the winter. No one’s perfect, even I have things to work on,” Hamilton said, without a trace of irony. “He’s going to raise the bar next year and I’ll have to as well, otherwise things won’t be the same.

“Ferrari had a very, very good season. Half the season they were in the lead and that wasn’t down to luck,” Hamilton added. “Red Bull is also going to be (competing for the title) next year.”

Considering how poor Ferrari was in 2016, this year can still be viewed as a success with Vettel winning five races compared to none last year.

Vettel joked that winning the title in 2018 will be “a walk in the park” if Ferrari improves by the same amount, then took a more serious view of the situation.

“That final step is always the hardest. But the team is ready and fired up,” said Vettel, who won four titles with Red Bull from 2010-13. “We made the biggest step of all. We lost out as the season progressed. In the end we weren’t good enough to take it to the last race, but there’s so much potential still.”

He accepted that he ultimately fell short because “Lewis made less mistakes” than he did.

Poised to regain the championship lead, he crashed out of the Singapore GP from pole position back in September – turning the tide in Hamilton’s favor. Reliability issues plagued Ferrari at the next two races. He started last and finished fourth at the Malaysian GP and then qualified third before retiring from the Japanese GP.

In June, the rivals were embroiled in their most heated clash at the Azerbaijan GP in Baku.

Vettel drove alongside Hamilton’s Mercedes as they waited behind the safety car for the restart, and was adjudged to have deliberately nudged the side of him. Tempers frayed and barbs were exchanged. Vettel initially denied it was deliberate but subsequently apologized for dangerous driving.

That incident genuinely threatened to spoil their healthy rivalry, but they joke about it now.

Asked on Thursday what their highlight of the season was, both drivers – sitting next to each other – laughed easily when Baku was suggested.

Referring to the upcoming end-of-season F1 awards, Vettel put himself forward for three.

“I should get (overtaking) move of the year, personality of the year, and fair play … maybe not.”