Vettel can clinch fourth straight F1 title on NBCSN this weekend in Japan

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At the age of 26, Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) can clinch his fourth consecutive Formula One World Championship on Sunday at the Japanese Grand Prix, highlighting 15 hours of motorsports coverage this weekend on NBCSN.

Vettel can clinch his fourth consecutive F1 title with a win this weekend, coupled with a finish of ninth or worse by Fernando Alonso(Ferrari), who trails Vettel by 77 points in the F1 points standings with five races remaining. Vettel is a three-time winner at the Japanese Grand Prix, earning victories in three of the last four seasons at Suzuka International Racing Course, while Alonso has won the Japanese Grand Prix twice. Vettel clinched his second World Championship in 2011 at the Japanese Grand Prix with a third-place finish.

Vettel enters the Japanese Grand Prix following back-to-back “Grand Slams” at the Singapore and Korean Grands Prix, where he won the pole position, led every lap, and recorded the fastest lap en route to victory. It was only the third time ever a driver has achieved a Grand Slam in consecutive F1 races, and the first time in 50 years.

With a fourth consecutive World Championship, Vettel would tie Alain Prost (4) and trail only Juan Manuel Fangio (5) and Michael Schumacher (7) for the most career F1 World Championships. Vettel’s resume currently includes numerous F1 records, including youngest polesitter, youngest race winner, and youngest world champion.

Live coverage of the Japanese Grand Prix begins with practice on Friday at 1 a.m. ET on NBCSN, followed by qualifying on NBCSN on Saturday at 1 a.m. ET. Live race coverage of the Japanese Grand Prix begins on Sunday at 1:30 a.m. ET. NBCSN will also air an encore presentation of the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. F1 Extra, NBC Sports Group’s half-hour post-race show, will air immediately following the conclusion of NBCSN’s Japanese Grand Prix coverage.

Live coverage of practice, qualifying, and the Japanese Grand Prix can also be seen on NBC Sports Live Extra – NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices, and tablets.

NBCSN will also air episodes of TRANSLOGIC as part of NBC Sports Group’s motorsports coverage.

Date Coverage Network Time (ET)
Fri., October 11 F1 Japanese Grand Prix – Practice NBCSN 1 a.m.
TRANSLOGIC NBCSN 2:30 a.m.
TRANSLOGIC NBCSN 11:30 p.m.
Sat., October 12 F1 Japanese Grand Prix – Qualifying NBCSN 1 a.m.
TRANSLOGIC NBCSN 2:30 a.m.
TRANSLOGIC NBCSN 10:30 p.m.
Sun., October 13 TRANSLOGIC NBCSN 1 a.m.
F1 Japanese Grand Prix NBCSN 1:30 a.m.
F1 Extra NBCSN 4 a.m.
F1 Japanese Grand Prix – Qualifying (Encore) NBCSN 11:30 a.m.
F1 Japanese Grand Prix (Encore) NBCSN 1 p.m.
F1 Extra (Encore) NBCSN 3:30 p.m.
Mon., October 14 IndyCar Grand Prix of Houston – Race 1 (Encore) NBCSN 1 a.m.

COMMENTATORS: Lead F1 announcer Leigh Diffey will call the Japanese Grand Prix and will be joined by veteran analyst and former racecar driver David Hobbs, and analyst and former race mechanic for the Benetton F1 team Steve Matchett. F1 insider Will Buxton will serve as the team’s on-site reporter from the Suzuka Circuit in Suzuka, Japan.

Following are quotes from Hobbs on Vettel:

Hobbs on what sets Vettel apart: “He has a genius feel for the car – how it grips going into the corner. He has an unmatched ability to get the maximum amount out of the car on the first lap, which is incredibly hard to do.”

Hobbs comparing Vettel and Michael Schumacher: “We said when Michael Schumacher was around that it would never happen again. Well, now we’re seeing it again…I’m in total awe of him.”

Hobbs on historical context of Vettel’s performance: “We are watching something that has never happened in 60 years of grand prix racing. With his age and the team he’s driving for, the possibility of him winning seven World Championships and reaching Schumacher is very likely.”

The rest of the release can be found on the NBC Sports Group Press Box website.

Castroneves OK after heavy crash in Pocono qualifying (VIDEO)

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Helio Castroneves lost the back end of his No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet rolling into Turn 1 during qualifying for Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN), in a big accident that will hurt his weekend hopes and force the Team Penske crew to make significant repairs.

Castroneves looped around and hit the Turn 1 wall with his nose and left side of the car, with the car then tilting up on its side before coming back down to the ground.

The Brazilian got out of the car under his own power without assistance from the Holmatro Safety Team before heading to the infield medical center. He has been checked, cleared and released.

Castroneves told NBCSN’s Jon Beekhuis: “Good news the hair is still good. Unfortunate for the car. We didn’t have a chance to do qualifying (in practice). I was a bit slow, so the car pushed a bit, it might have been a bit too aggressive. It caught me in Turn 1, and came around, unfortunately spun out on me. Hopefully it’s not a snowball. Now that practice is tonight before the race.”

Castroneves enters Sunday’s race second in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship standings, seven points behind teammate and points leader Josef Newgarden (423-416).

Porsche: Formula E more than a marketing tool, ‘no passing fad’

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Porsche executive board member Michael Steiner is confident that Formula E will be more than just a “passing fad” or a tool for good marketing as the German marque begins to prepare for its entry to the series in 2019.

Porsche rocked the racing world last month by announcing it would be closing its LMP1 program at the end of this year, shifting its focus to Formula E where it will race from season six onwards.

The move sees Porsche follow in the footsteps of many more manufacturers, with Audi, Jaguar, Mercedes, Renault and BMW among those who will also be racing in season six.

Porsche had previously dismissed Formula E as not being of enough technical interest in its current state, but Steiner is confident of its future direction.

“The series is developing in an interesting direction,” Steiner said. Think, for example, of the rear axle with the electric motor, which manufacturers are able to design themselves within the regulations.

“Or take the inverter and the battery management, where there will also be more freedom. In the relatively short term, it is expected that a better battery will be used in Formula E, which will eliminate vehicle changes during the race.

“There are also planned increases in drive performance. And brake-by-wire is coming, along with other things. We have seen the roadmap on the technical side. The regulations will start to open up and the planned developments are very interesting.”

Steiner said Porsche is expecting Formula E to become a strong technical formula, adding: “We would not make such a wide-ranging strategic change for an event that only had marketing potential.

“If Formula E were just a short-term trend or a passing fad, we would certainly not become involved.”

Leah Pritchett has quickest run in NHRA history at 3.640 seconds

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BRAINERD, Minn. (AP) Leah Pritchett had the quickest run in NHRA history with 3.640-second pass at 330.63 mph Friday night at Brainerd International Speedway in Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals qualifying.

She broke her own Top Fuel record of 3.658 set in Arizona in February.

“We’ve looked forward to this night session for a long time,” Pritchett said. “Knowing that Brainerd, this track, this surface, the conditions and what NHRA is able to do to it, lays down the ground work for us to pull out the most power possible. That’s what this team did. They have been working tirelessly at finding small amounts of power here, there and everywhere and to be able to put it on the track tonight was incredible.”

Robert Hight broke the Funny Car time record with a 3.793 at 338.00 in a Chevrolet Camaro SS, the first run in the 3.7s in Funny Car history. He set the speed record of 339.87 last month at Sonoma Raceway.

“I could tell it was running fast and I saw the 3.79 on the scoreboard,” Hight said. “It’s just something you dream about. There are so many things that have to happen and work together for it all to come together. It’s not that easy. This is a big milestone. To be part of a milestone as a driver, this was big for me.”

Tanner Gray topped the Pro Stock field, and Hector Arana Jr. was the fastest in Pro Stock Motorcycle. Gray had a 6.607 at 208.617 in a Chevrolet Camaro, and Arana had a 6.879 at 194.24 on a Buell.

Back racing after F1 test, Norris dominates Zandvoort F3 opener

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McLaren younster Lando Norris made an emphatic return to racing action after the summer break by dominating the opening race of the FIA European Formula 3 weekend at Zandvoort, taking his sixth win of the season.

Norris, 17, moved up to F3 for 2017 after winning two Formula Renault titles last year, as well as linking up with McLaren’s junior program.

The Briton impressed during his maiden Formula 1 test in Hungary at the end of last month, and carried the momentum through to Zandvoort by taking pole position for Carlin for the first race of the weekend.

Norris retained his lead at the start and only came under pressure following a safety car period, with Swedish youngster Joel Eriksson running close for the lead.

Norris was able to create a gap and pull away, completing a wire-to-wire win with almost nine seconds in hand over the pack for his sixth win of the season.

The result sees Norris move to within eight points of championship leader Maximillian Günther, the German finishing third on Saturday at Zandvoort.