2013 United States Grand Prix Preview

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Following the success of the first United States Grand Prix to be held at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin last year, the Formula One world has been itching to return to the heart of Texas. Not only is the city itself one of the most vibrant and entertaining on the calendar, but the track – the first permanent circuit in the US built for Formula One – was a major hit with fans, drivers and teams.

Ever since that initial success, there has been a longing to return to the United States, and the time has finally arrived. Following a crazy week of driver rumors, announcements and back injuries, the race at COTA is poised to be one of the most entertaining and intriguing of the season. The championships may be all wrapped up, but there is perhaps more to play for than ever at the penultimate round of the season. (Watch it live on NBC Sports Live Extra.)

United States Grand Prix Talking Points

Can Seb make it eight?

Sebastian Vettel is chasing a rather remarkable record in Austin. The quadruple world champion is – as he has been since the end of August – looking to extend his winning streak this weekend, only this time it is to eight races. In the history of Formula One, no many has won eight races in a row in the same season. Alberto Ascari holds the record for the most consecutive wins (nine) spread across two seasons. Also, COTA is just one of two tracks on the calendar that Seb has not won at. He’ll be keen on claiming another ‘funny hat’ this year.

Unbeatable Lew

Lewis Hamilton may have only won once in 2013, but he is looking to extend his 100% record in the US this weekend. Having debuted in 2007 and won that year’s United States GP at Indianapolis, Hamilton won last season’s race at COTA, meaning that he has never lost in the US. Therefore, he will be hoping to make it three from three this weekend relying the Mercedes W04 car improves from Abu Dhabi, where he suffered a number of problems before struggling home in seventh place.

Alonso back in action

Fernando Alonso has been given the all clear to race after a high-speed run over the kerbing in Abu Dhabi left him with a back injury. However, the Spaniard will be keen on returning to the podium this weekend and getting Ferrari’s bid for second place in the constructors’ back on track before Mercedes disappear out of site.

Enter Heikki

Following Kimi Raikkonen’s own back injury, Heikki Kovalainen has been drafted in to replace his fellow Finn for the final two rounds of the season. With one grand prix victory under his belt, Kovalainen will be keen on impressing with Lotus as he looks to revive his Formula One career following a year out as Caterham’s test driver. It will be interesting to see just how quickly he gets up to speed in a car that he has never driven before.

Pastor and Checo on show

Both Pastor Maldonado and Sergio Perez have had rough weeks, finding out that they will be without seats for 2014 with Williams and McLaren respectively. However, the final two rounds of the season act as a stage upon which the drivers must sell themselves and prove themselves worthy of a seat on next year’s grid. Like compatriot Esteban Gutierrez, Perez will be cheered on by the large contingency of Mexican fans that will be in Austin, and hopefully this will spur him on to a good result.

Track: Circuit of the Americas
Laps: 56
Corners: 20
Lap Record: Sebastian Vettel 1:39.347 (2012)
Tire Compounds: Medium (option); Hard (prime)
2012 Winner: Lewis Hamilton (McLaren)
2012 Pole Position: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1:35.657
2012 Fastest Lap: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1:39.347
DRS Zones: T20 to T1; T11 to T12

Friday – Free Practice 1: 10 am ET
Friday – Free Practice 2: 2 pm ET (LIVE on NBCSN and on NBC Sports Live extra)
Saturday – Free Practice 3: 10 am ET
Saturday – Qualifying: 1 pm ET (LIVE on CNBC and on NBC Sports Live extra)
Sunday – Race: 2 pm ET (LIVE on NBC, pre-race show starts at 1 pm ET and on NBC Sports Live extra)

Takuma Sato’s likeness revealed on Borg-Warner Trophy (PHOTOS)

Photos; Walt Kuhn
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INDIANAPOLIS – Rather than the traditional December unveil, this year’s reveal newest likeness added to the Borg-Warner Trophy came Tuesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.

Takuma Sato got to see the result of the sculpting done by William Behrends and then turned from wax, clay and ceramic into sterling silver on Tuesday evening, as the winner of the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil saw his face revealed on the trophy.

Sato took the No. 26 Ruoff Home Mortgage Honda for Andretti Autosport to the win in thrilling fashion this year over Helio Castroneves, denying the Brazilian his fourth Indianapolis 500 victory in the process. It atoned for his near-miss in 2012, driving for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, the team he’ll return to in 2018.

It’s been a whirlwind last week-plus for Sato, doing the podium interviews at the Japanese Grand Prix, reflecting on his Indianapolis 500 triumph, then sharing the victory spoils with another Japanese pilot in Yoshihide Muroya, who won the Red Bull Air Race World Championship at Indianapolis this weekend.

Photos of Sato’s face on the most unique trophy in sports are below. This post will be updated following tonight’s full unveil. (All photos: Walt Kuhn)