2013 Indian Grand Prix Preview

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There may still be four more races to go in the 2013 Formula One season, but everything that truly matters – that is, the championships – looks set to be decided this weekend in India. Sebastian Vettel has to finish just fifth or higher to secure his fourth consecutive world title, whilst Fernando Alonso must hope that his fierce rival’s unlikely demise coincides with his own top-two finish, although even that may not be enough for the Spaniard. For Red Bull, the constructors’ championship is already in their back pocket with Ferrari requiring a remarkable performance to keep the title alive heading to Abu Dhabi.

Indian Grand Prix Talking Points

Will Seb settle for less?

He may only need to finish fifth on Sunday, but Sebastian Vettel has underlined his intention to go out and win the Indian Grand Prix for the third time. However, should he find himself embroiled in a battle for the win as he did at Suzuka, would the German driver risk a mechanical failure or crash purely for that record?

Lotus look to continue good form

Besides Vettel, Lotus have been the stand-out performers in the last few races, outracing nearest-rivals Ferrari and Mercedes as the battle for second place in the constructors’ championship hots up. If Romain Grosjean’s form continues and Kimi Raikkonen can find some pace, the team could be well-placed to push Vettel and perhaps force him into submission at the front of the field.

Force India’s ‘home’ race to signal reprisal?

Despite being based in England, Force India – as the name may suggest – will be celebrating their home race this weekend. However, having picked up just three points in the last seven races and with the resurgent Sauber now bearing down on them in the race for P6 in the constructors’, now is the perfect time for Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil to get back on track and pick up some much-needed points.

The shop window gets busier and busier

Following Daniil Kvyat’s surprise confirmation at Toro Rosso for 2014, the seats on next year’s grid are slowly beginning to fall into place. For the likes of Felipe Massa, Paul di Resta, Max Chilton, Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic, a good final quartet of races is imperative if they are to secure a spot on next year’s grid.

Farewell India – for now or for good?

With growing uncertainty surrounding the future of the race, this could prove to be the final Indian Grand Prix. The race officials have opted to skip 2014 in favor of an early-season slot on the 2015 calendar, and race organizer Vicky Chandhok was adamant to NBC Sports’ Will Buxton that this would not be the last we see of Buddh International Circuit. Nevertheless, what we do know is that this will be the last time until spring 2015 that F1 visits India.

Track: Buddh International Circuit
Laps: 60
Corners: 16
Lap Record: Sebastian Vettel 1:27.249 (2009)
Tire Compounds: Medium (option); Hard (prime)
2012 Winner: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
2012 Pole Position: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1:25.283
2012 Fastest Lap: Jenson Button (McLaren) 1:28.203
DRS Zones: Main Straight (T16 to T1); T3 to T4

Friday – Free Practice 1: 00:30am ET
Friday – Free Practice 2: 04:30am ET (LIVE on NBCSN)
Saturday – Free Practice 3: 01:30am ET
Saturday – Qualifying: 04:30am ET (LIVE on NBCSN)
Sunday – Race: 05:30am ET (LIVE on NBCSN)

Mercedes, Ferrari go conservative on Austrian GP tire picks

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Pirelli has confirmed all 20 Formula 1 drivers’ tire picks for next weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, with most opting to stack up on ultra-softs.

As it does for every grand prix, Pirelli will bring three compounds to Austria next week, electing for the softest possible combination of ultra-soft, super-soft and soft tires.

In the regular pre-race release of each driver’s tire picks, Pirelli revealed that Force India, McLaren and Red Bull have gone down the most aggressive routes, stacking up on the ultra-soft tire.

Title contenders Mercedes and Ferrari have gone down a more conservative route, favoring additional sets of the super-soft compound.

Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen will take seven sets of ultra-softs to Spielberg, while Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas will have eight sets at their disposal through the weekend.

Graham Rahal survives Road America to finish eighth

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Graham Rahal and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing faced a roller coaster of a race during the Kohler Grand Prix at Road America on Sunday.

He was a rocket off the initial start, jumping from sixth on the grid up to fourth exiting turn 1, but was almost immediately ordered to surrender a position for blocking. He quickly slipped back to sixth, and then began plummeting down the order as he battled an oversteer condition that saw his car chew through its rear tires more quickly than others.

Forced to abandon the planned three-stop strategy, he and the No. 15 Gehl Honda team switched to a four-stop plan that saw him drop well outside the top ten at times.

However, they kept plugging away and rebounded nicely in the second half of the race to eventually finish in eighth. While he would have liked to finish higher up the order, Rahal knows that he and the team got everything they could out of it.

“The car was a handful today. I knew about five laps in that I didn’t have the pace for a three-stop strategy,” Rahal revealed post-race. “We tried as best we could to work with what we had during the race and overcome it. I would have obviously liked to have finished better, but eighth is about as good as we could do today. We struggled with a very loose race car all weekend and just couldn’t put a dent in the problem. We worked awfully hard but just missed it this weekend.”

The eighth-place finish keeps Rahal in the championship hunt. Rahal now sits seventh in the standings, 11 points behind fifth-place Josef Newgarden and 72 behind championship leader Scott Dixon.

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Ed Jones continues steady run with seventh at Road America

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Dale Coyne Racing’s Ed Jones has made waves in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season with a string of solid performances that belie his rookie status.

And Sunday’s Kohler Grand Prix at Road America was no different.

The 22-year-old battled an oversteering car most of the weekend at Road America, and had to navigate a little carnage late in the race as Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay both fell through the field with front wing problems.

However, Jones weathered all storms to finish an impressive seventh, his fifth finish inside the top 10 this year, and his best finish since his third place at the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade MotorOil.

“It was a really tough race,” Jones said of the effort. “We had a loose car yesterday. It was loose, but fast, for qualifying, and today again the car was really loose. I was hanging on the whole race, but the team had some good pit stops and we were able to move up.

“Obviously, the strategy was pretty similar to everyone else. Everyone was aggressive out there. It was hard racing but we came out with a seventh place and we moved up a little bit in the points.”

The seventh-place run sees Jones maintain his position in the top ten in the championship. He currently sits tenth in the standings, three points ahead of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Max Chilton.

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Vilander replaces Bird at AF Corse for Nurburgring WEC round

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AF Corse has confirmed that Toni Vilander will race the No. 71 Ferrari 488 GTE in next month’s FIA World Endurance Championship round at the Nürburgring in place of Sam Bird, who is tied up with Formula E commitments in New York.

Vilander currently races full-time in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with Risi Competizione, and appeared at the 24 Hours of Le Mans two weeks ago.

The Finn won the WEC GT drivers’ title in 2014 and last raced full-time in the series in 2015, but will return at the Nürburgring in place of Bird, who confirmed on Monday that he would be prioritizing his Formula E commitments on the July 16 weekend.

Vilander is relishing the opportunity to race alongside Davide Rigon in the No. 71 Ferrari, and is eager to bounce back from an early retirement at Le Mans.

“I’m happy to be able to return to the FIA WEC with the 488 GTE of AF Corse team. This is my chance to cancel the disappointment of the 24 Hours of Le Mans as soon as possible,” Vilander said.

“Car number 71 is in the top places of the championship standings, and I will give all I have to achieve the best possible result at Nürburgring, to help Ferrari in the manufacturers’ championship and Davide Rigon in the drivers’ ranking.”