Hinchcliffe ready to race childhood hero Villeneuve at Indy 500

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During his time in the IndyCar Series, James Hinchcliffe has shown that he respects those that have raced before him.

We all know about his deep respect in particular for late Canadian driver Greg Moore, which we see every weekend in the cockpit as he wears a pair of red driving gloves like Moore did.

Then there’s Hinchcliffe’s paint job on his No. 27 United Fiber and Data Honda, which appears to somewhat echo Moore’s classic Player’s No. 99 Champ Car.

But as a proud Canadian, Hinchcliffe was also a big fan of Jacques Villeneuve, who himself took a Player’s-backed machine to the 1995 Indianapolis 500 and CART titles before he went on to the F1 World Championship in 1997.

Now, almost 20 years after his “500” win, Villeneuve is heading back to the Brickyard this May as the third driver for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Since the news first broke Monday, fans have debated over why Villeneuve is returning and whether it’s a good thing (he’s certainly a marquee name) or a bad thing (he hasn’t raced an open-wheel car since 2006).

But Hinchcliffe, for one, is happy for the apparent time warp.

“Selfishly, I am kind of happy he is going to try it,” Hinchcliffe said to the Toronto Sun’s Dean McNulty on Wednesday while making the media rounds in his hometown.

“He was one of my heroes growing up. I was part of the Jacques Villeneuve fan club – I got my letter every month through his IndyCar years and his F-1 years.”

That said, he’s not exactly sure why one of his childhood idols has chosen to go for it one more time in the “500” after such a long layoff from IndyCar racing.

“As a Canadian, it is going to be fun to race against one of my heroes,” he added to the Sun. “But as far as why he is doing it, it is beyond me, man.”

Villeneuve appeared to give an insight into that matter yesterday, when he mentioned the desire to race for his children in a teleconference.

“I don’t want to be for my kids just the guy that used to race, that they can see in books,” he said. “I want them to see and live what I’ve already lived, to see it through my doing it actively. It’s actually a positive effect to have kids.”

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.