Could Williams be the team to beat in the race for P2?

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As far as the Formula 1 constructors’ championship is concerned this season, there isn’t really much of a fight for the top honors. Mercedes has been dominant in 2014 and sent shockwaves through the sport, setting up an exciting battle for the drivers’ title between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.

Behind the Silver Arrows, though, there is a far closer contest between the teams shaping up; so close that the team in fourth may in fact be best placed to indeed finish as the ‘best of the rest’.

Williams has seen its fortunes turn through 180º in 2014. After scoring just a solitary point before last year’s summer break before going on to claim just four more by the end of the season, the British team has bitten back hard this time around. With a number of fresh faces – Felipe Massa, Rob Smedley, Pat Symonds, Jakob Andreasen – and a rebrand courtesy of Martini, the team has looked, for want of a better word, happy again in 2014. Everything at Grove is good.

The team currently ranks fourth in the constructors’ championship, some seven points behind Ferrari, but the target of second in the standings may seem an unrealistic one with Red Bull 84 points ahead. Can the British outfit really do it?

Yes. It may be a big ask, but Williams should be in the mix for P2 come the end of the year as the circuits in the final stretch suit the FW36 perfectly. Its key strength has been straight line speed this year, allowing the team to excel in Austria and Germany; Valtteri Bottas reached the podium on both occasions.

Felipe Massa spoke about the upcoming tracks before the summer break, and made clear that Williams should be fighting at the sharp end if all things go to plan.

“I think Monza, Spa, maybe USA, maybe Brazil,” he said when asked which tracks will suit Williams. “Also on the last race [Abu Dhabi] you have some good straights as well.

“I think the car can be competitive at many tracks, not just Monza and Spa. Definitely it’s also true that Monza and Spa we can be more than the others, but I think we need to concentrate and think that we can have a good car at most of the tracks.”

So with Spa and Monza coming up, this is where the swing to Williams could take place. Red Bull’s Christian Horner is wary about his team’s chances at both circuits, believing that it may just be a case of doing everything possible to score some points and limit the damage.

“Singapore has to be the next golden opportunity for us in reality,” Horner admitted. “I think it will be damage limitation in the next two races because Force India will suddenly reappear, Williams will be quick, McLaren will be quick and obviously Mercedes will be quick.

“So we’re got to take what we can out of the next two races and then for the flyaways really try and turn things up.”

However, as Massa said, the tracks after Singapore (Sochi, COTA, Interlagos, Yas Marina) should all play into Williams’ hands. Although the RB10 car itself is pretty sound, the Renault engine has really harmed the team at the high speed tracks; Austria was proof of this, with Ricciardo the top scorer in P8.

Eight races, 84 points, eleven points per race to pick up on Red Bull. Is it going to be tough? Yes. But is it possible? Certainly. If Mercedes hits trouble once again between now and the end of the season, it may just well be either Bottas or Massa who picks up the pieces to claim a famous win for Williams.

NBC Sports presents IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama Sunday live at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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From NBC Sports Group PR:

* Sunday’s Pre-Race Coverage Begins with IndyCar Live Presented by Verizon at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

* Pre-Race Coverage Includes Robin Miller Feature on Rookie Zach Veach, Following Career-Best Fourth-Place Finish at Long Beach

* CNBC Presents Live Qualifying Saturday at 4 p.m. ET, Airs on NBCSN at 6:30 p.m. ET

STAMFORD, Conn. – April 19, 2018 – NBC Sports continues its coverage of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series this weekend from Barber Motorsports Park with live coverage of the Grand Prix of Alabama on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Pre-race coverage begins with IndyCar Live presented by Verizon at 3 p.m. ET.

NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app — NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices, tablets, and connected TVs — will provide live streaming coverage of the Grand Prix of Alabama.

Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport) delivered a dominant performance at the Grand Prix of Long Beach last weekend, winning the pole and leading wire-to-wire for his third career victory, and third consecutive podium finish to start the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series campaign. Rossi currently leads Josef Newgarden (Penske) in the driver standings by 24 points. Newgarden won last year’s Grand Prix of Alabama, his second career win at Barber, while Rossi finished fifth.

This weekend’s live coverage from Barber Motorsports Park begins Saturday at 4 p.m. ET with qualifying on CNBC. NBCSN will air qualifying on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET. Sunday’s pre-race coverage begins at 4 p.m. ET with IndyCar Live presented by Verizon and will take place from the grid in the lead up to the command, bringing viewers even closer to the action prior to the race.

Pre-race coverage will include a feature by IndyCar on NBC pit reporter Robin Miller on rookie driver Zach Veach, who’s coming off a career-best fourth place finish at the Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Lead IndyCar play-by-play commentator Leigh Diffey will call this weekend’s Grand Prix of Alabama, analysts Paul Tracy and Townsend BellMarty Snider, Robin Miller, Kevin Lee, and Katie Hargitt will report from the pits.

NBCSN will also present coverage of the Indy Lights race from Alabama late night on Monday, April 23, at 1:30 a.m. ET. Current IndyCar driver Conor Daly will join the NBCSN booth for the race broadcast, alongside Kevin Lee and Anders Krohn, with Katie Hargitt reporting from the pits.

Following is this weekend’s IndyCar schedule on NBCSN and CNBC:

Date Coverage Network Time (ET)
Sat., April 21 Grand Prix of Alabama – Qualifying LIVE CNBC 4 p.m.
Grand Prix of Alabama – Qualifying (Encore) NBCSN 6:30 p.m.
Sun., April 22 IndyCar Live presented by Verizon NBCSN 3 p.m.
Grand Prix of Alabama NBCSN 3:30 p.m.
IndyCar Post-Race NBCSN 5:30 p.m.
Mon., April 23 Grand Prix of Alabama (Encore) NBCSN 12 p.m.
Indy Lights – Alabama NBCSN 1:30 a.m.

NBC SPORTS GROUP AND INDYCAR PARTNER ON COMPREHENSIVE, MULTI-YEAR MEDIA RIGHTS AGREEMENT

On March 21, NBC Sports Group and INDYCAR announced a new, multi-year media rights agreement in which NBC Sports acquired the rights to present all INDYCAR races, qualifying, practices, and Indy Lights races across its platforms beginning in 2019.

The Indianapolis 500 and seven additional Verizon IndyCar Series races will be broadcast annually on NBC, with all remaining races televised on NBCSN. All races will be live streamed to authenticated subscribers on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. Details of NBC Sports’ 2019 INDYCAR schedule will be announced at a later date.

NBC Sports Gold – NBC Sports Group’s direct-to-consumer product – will offer a package to INDYCAR fans that features all qualifying and practices not televised live, all Indy Lights races, and full-event replays. Additional details, including the cost of the Gold offering, will be announced at a later date. Click here for more information.


VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES ON NBCSPORTS.COM AND THE NBC SPORTS APP

NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app — NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices, tablets, and connected TVs — will provide live streaming coverage of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series via “TV Everywhere,” giving consumers additional value to their subscription service, and making high quality content available to MVPD customers both in and out of the home and on multiple platforms.

NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app are powered by Playmaker Media and available on the iTunes App Store, Google Play, Windows Store, Roku Channel Store, Apple TV and Amazon Fire.