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)

Honda defends decision to redesign F1 power unit for 2017

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Honda Formula 1 chief Yusuke Hasegawa has defended the decision to redesign its power unit layout for 2017 despite suffering a number of reliability and performance issues at the start of the season.

Entering its third year since returning to F1 as an engine supplier, Honda looked to make gains by revising the layout of its power unit to mirror that of pace-setter Mercedes.

The decision appeared to backfire, though, with a lack of both performance and reliability leaving customer team McLaren frustrated and without a single point after three races.

Speaking in Friday’s FIA press conference in Russia, Hasegawa was asked if the decision to revise the power unit layout was a mistake, and defending the move despite admitting to the ongoing problems.

“I don’t think we made a complete mistake from last year’s performance. We knew that we have to change everything, not only the package but also the combustion, so we tried to modify all areas,” Hasegawa explained.

“Some areas we succeeded, to reduce the weight and lower the center of gravity, but yeah, definitely we couldn’t get enough power from the combustion. So, yeah, it is just an excuse, but we still need time.

“But we don’t think we made a huge mistake, the direction was right. We are very much disappointed with our current situation.

“But because the base concept is correct, we believe we can make good progress in the middle of the season.”

McLaren’s hopes of scoring its first points of the year in Russia took a hit on Friday when Stoffel Vandoorne was forced to take new elements for his power unit, triggering a 15-place grid drop for the race.

More brake issues strike Haas in Russia F1 practice despite supplier change

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The Haas Formula 1 team endured another difficult day of practice ahead of the Russian Grand Prix as drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen suffered more brake issues despite changing supplier.

Haas confirmed on Thursday that it would be switching from Brembo to Carbon Industrie brakes, having suffered problems throughout its 14-month stint in F1.

Despite enjoying a positive test in Bahrain with Carbon Industrie parts last week, both Grosjean and Magnussen struggled with their brakes in FP1 and FP2 at the Sochi Autodrom on Friday.

Grosjean finished FP2 14th-fastest, with Magnussen breaking into the top 10, charging to ninth place in the VF-17 car.

“We’ve got very little grip. We’re really struggling with the balance,” Grosjean said. “We had some issues, as well, with the brakes over the long runs. We need to look at what we can do better with them.

“Generally, it’s just been a very difficult Friday. The car didn’t perform well – very low grip on low fuel and high fuel.”

Team principal Guenther Steiner added: “We had a lot to do and I think we did a lot. We still haven’t got all the results yet, as we need to go through data.

“I would say the issues with the brakes were mainly because they’re new to us. We need to find out how they work. Going through the data, we will decide tomorrow what we’re doing and how we continue.

“All in all, we had pretty fruitful sessions. We did a lot of laps and we learned a lot. Now we need to get the best out of what we learned for tomorrow to go into qualifying.”

Qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix is live on CNBC and the NBC Sports app from 8am ET on Saturday.

F1 Paddock Pass: Russian Grand Prix, Friday edition (VIDEO)

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While the drivers may be the stars of Formula 1, their on-track escapades would not be possible without the titanic effort from those behind the scenes at their respective teams, making it key for us to hear from the people who make racing possible from time to time.

Following on from the special Friday edition of NBC Sports’ original digital series ‘Paddock Pass’ in Bahrain, Will Buxton is back with all of the interviews from the team bosses in today’s FIA press conference in Russia.

In part one, we hear from Otmar Szafnauer, COO at Force India, who gives his verdict on the team’s showing in 2017 so far and new driver Esteban Ocon’s start to the season. We also catch up with Renault technical boss Nick Chester and Pirelli’s new F1 chief, Mario Isola.

In part two, Ferrari’s engine boss Luigi Fabroni offers his thoughts on the Italian marque’s strong start to the 2017 season following Sebastian Vettel’s wins in Australia and Bahrain. At the other end of the success spectrum, McLaren’s Matt Morris and Honda’s Yusuke Hasegawa discuss the ongoing rebuilding project at woking.

Vettel refusing to be misled by Mercedes’ F1 practice pace in Russia

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Sebastian Vettel is refusing to read too much into Ferrari’s impressive Formula 1 practice pace in Russia on Friday, saying it is easy to be “misled” by rival team Mercedes.

Vettel arrived in Russia for the fourth round of the season after making the best start to a campaign by a Ferrari driver since Michael Schumacher in 2004, winning two of the first three races.

Vettel continued Ferrari’s impressive showing to start 2017 by dominating second practice on Friday at the Sochi Autodrom, finishing over half a second clear of Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.

However, Vettel is refusing to take too much from the result, citing Mercedes’ jump in pace from Friday to Saturday in Russia last year as a reason why not to.

“I think Mercedes will be fine. It’s a circuit that suits them, so they will be strong tomorrow,” Vettel said after practice, as quoted by the official F1 website.

“I don’t want to make this personal but I think last year people expected Williams to be the fastest after Friday if I remember right, and obviously it turned out Mercedes were.

“That’s how sometimes you can be misled. I think there are a lot of things we can play with in the car, loads, engines modes. At this track especially there are a lot of things you can show or not show.

“I think the most important [thing] is that we talk about ourselves, our balance, and I think we improved throughout the session so I’m reasonably happy.”

Vettel will be chasing Ferrari’s first pole since the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix on Saturday, with qualifying live on CNBC from 8am ET.