Hamilton fastest in FP1 for Korean Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton has begun his Korean Grand Prix weekend in the best possible fashion by finishing quickest in the first free practice session in Yeongam, leading from Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel by the narrowest of margins on Friday morning.

The 2008 world champion and one-time pole-sitter at the Korean International Circuit posted a fastest time of 1:39.630 to finish just 0.037 seconds ahead of Vettel, with the German driver looking to win his fourth consecutive race this weekend. Having hit the front around sixty minutes through the ninety minute session, Hamilton ran strongly despite spinning his Mercedes W04 at one point. However, unlike many of his colleagues, he managed to keep it out of the wall and eventually finish the session on top.

Rodolfo Gonzalez and James Calado both got the chance to put in some laps for Marussia and Force India respectively, deputizing for full-time race drivers Jules Bianchi and Paul di Resta. However, Gonzalez did himself no favors by crashing the MR-02 car and eventually finishing seven seconds off Hamilton’s fastest time. Calado also failed to match the pace of the other Force India driver Adrian Sutil, finishing 1.5 seconds behind the German driver in eighteenth place.

Having not bothered the front-runners during the middle of the session, Vettel eventually came to the fore late on, having his first true attempt at overthrowing Hamilton in P1 ruined by a slow-going Felipe Massa. The Brazilian driver only managed to post his first time of the session with eight minutes to go after suffering from a puncture that curtailed his first run. For Vettel, the time lost behind Massa was made up later on, coming within a fraction of Hamilton’s time.

The session came to an early end after Kimi Raikkonen crashed at the final corner having made a mistake that saw him spear into the wall. The Finn suffered from back problems in Singapore, and it is unlikely that such a hefty off will have done him any favors. However, he still managed to finish P8, albeit one second down on Hamilton at the front.

Mercedes do appear to have taken a step forward following their disappointing showing in Singapore, but with Vettel still up there at the front, Hamilton will be wary of the German driver as the Briton looks to claim his first victory in Korea this weekend.

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.