Canadian GP Paddock Notebook – Thursday

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In a new feature on MotorSportsTalk, we’ll be putting together a paddock notebook for the upcoming races on the Formula 1 calendar, bringing you an all-in-one article with the big stories of the day, some of the more subtle bits of news, and just the general paddock atmosphere.

This week, we’re in Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. The race is a favourite among the drivers and the fans, welcoming a large number of Americans. They will get the chance to cheer on a home favorite this weekend as American driver Alexander Rossi takes part in the first free practice session for Caterham. We’ll be chatting with Alexander later today, so stay tuned for our interview with him.


  • Here is our complete preview of the 2014 Canadian GP, complete with TV times, stats, and the big storylines that are set to define this weekend’s race.
  • Our writing team has once again made its predictions for the race, and unsurprisingly, we have all picked a Mercedes driver to win the race. Are we Team Lewis or Team Nico, though?
  • Esteban Gutierrez is refusing to get down about his Monaco mishap. The Mexican spun out while running in the points, but still feels that Sauber has momentum going forwards.
  • Kevin Magnussen seemed to be in good spirits today, and spoke about his experiences as a rookie in Formula 1. He was quick to reject any suggestions that he is holding McLaren back due to his inexperience.
  • His fellow Scandanavian, Kimi Raikkonen, underlined the importance of Ferrari taking its time to plot a return to the front of the field. He was also unwilling to say that he would win a race in 2014.
  • Jenson Button may be one of the oldest drivers on the grid, but he has no plans to retire just yet. The Briton believes that he still has what it takes to compete at the highest level at McLaren.

We also got the chance to sit down with Caterham’s American reserve driver Alexander Rossi for a one-on-one interview. He spoke in depth about his season so far, his future, F1 in the USA and his chances with Haas Formula.

The Canadian Grand Prix is one of the most popular races on the calendar for a reason, with the city being so vibrant and embracing F1 with open arms. The fans were certainly out in force, coming into the pit lane for driver autograph sessions and to soak up the atmosphere at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. The only downside was the drizzly weather, so hopefully things will brighten up by tomorrow for practice.

Of course, the action will really get going tomorrow with practice. You can watch FP1 live via live stream, with FP2 being broadcast live on NBCSN and Live Extra.

For more information on NBCs broadcasting of the 2014 Canadian Grand Prix, click here.

‘Game-changing’ multi-year agreement will take INDYCAR, NBC Sports ‘to the next level’


NEW YORK – As the fourth Nor’easter in three weeks bore down on the Big Apple, it was tough to spot people that were clearly in a good mood.

But Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN, was clearly in a good mood.

On Wednesday morning at 10 am ET, we all found out why: NBC will become the exclusive home of the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, starting in 2019.

The new three-year deal not only makes “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” part of the network’s “Championship Season” – its collection of high-profile championship events from May to July – but also reaffirms NBC’s status as the home of motorsports television in the United States.

That status is something Miller doesn’t take for granted.

“It’s important people know that storytelling is in our DNA, and motorsports lends itself very well to storytelling,” Miller said as he, INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles and driver James Hinchcliffe made a snowy trek to the New York Stock Exchange to promote the deal on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

“We’ve had great success with the second half of the entire NASCAR season, and then we’ve had half of the IndyCar package [since 2009] … But we never had the real meat of the series and that didn’t set anybody up for success.

“Having the entire package of IndyCar now – all 17 races, qualifying, practice, you name it – really sets IndyCar on a strong path and solidifies NBC’s position as the home of motorsports. I think it becomes a property much like the Premier League, the NHL, and even the Olympics and the Triple Crown. We have 100 percent of the media opportunity and we can put all those great assets behind it.”

With the storm no doubt keeping some traders home, the floor of the NYSE was relatively subdued. But that made it no less important to be at the heart of Wall Street. Miles and his team are pursuing a new title sponsor for the IndyCar Series to replace Verizon, which will fully focus its efforts in the series with the powerhouse Team Penske going forward in 2019.

The new deal – which includes 8 races per year on the NBC network (with the remaining races going to NBCSN), live streaming of all races, and a direct-to-consumer package with NBC Sports Gold – gave Miles plenty to push for any potential backers. As for Hinchcliffe, he held his own nicely in an interview that also explored IndyCar’s global ambitions, the impact of technology on the sport, and of course, his spin around the ballroom on “Dancing with the Stars.”

On the ride back to 30 Rock, Miles was confident that NBC can play a big role in attracting a sponsor that can help the series keep growing.

“With respect to our work in finding the best title sponsor, it’s really important – and this has not been talked about much – but we expect to work with hand in glove with NBC’s sales,” he explained. “We have the opportunity to create packages which are both broadcast sponsorship and series sponsorship, I think, in a way that doesn’t come along very often.

“Usually, the media deal and the sponsorship deal doesn’t align like this, so we’re really excited about the offering we’ll have and the approach to the market we can take.”

Should the partnership with NBC bear fruit on that front and others, it will only add to the upswing that the IndyCar Series has had in recent years.

Hinchcliffe has been a witness to that. He entered the series in 2011, when it was trying to find its footing after the sport’s reunification three years earlier. After 13 years of CART vs. the Indy Racing League, getting everything back under one roof was not a smooth process.

But fast-forward seven years, and things have changed for the better. TV ratings and digital viewers have gone up. Race scheduling has become more stable and enhanced with the return of traditional open-wheel markets. And this year’s debut of the universal aero kit aims to pump up the action on the track, while also giving the cars a cleaner, meaner look.

Now, with NBC all in, Hinchcliffe is bullish on his sport’s future.

“This is a game-changing thing for us,” he declared. “If you look at the last four or five years, we’ve seen a steady growth in pretty much every measureable metric that there is – in a time where, globally, motorsports is in a bit of a downturn.

“The fact that IndyCar was able to rally against a global dip in motorsports interest, attendance, sponsorship – it speaks volumes to what we have been doing and this is just gonna take us to that next level.”