Andretti and Perez excited for United States GP in Austin

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Mario Andretti and Sergio Perez have both spoken exclusively to NBCSN about their excitement for the United States Grand Prix, which is set to take place at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas this November.

Since returning to the calendar at COTA in 2012, the race has been a great success, welcoming fans from all over the world. The event has also proven to be a hit with the drivers and teams, and for Andretti, 2014 could prove to be the best race yet.

“Well obviously hopefully better than ever,” he said when asked by NBCSN’s Will Buxton how the race would be this year. “This started out as a huge success, and we want to gain momentum every year, more and more.

“We’re excited about it. The buzz is out there.”

Andretti is visiting Monza for the first time in 31 years this weekend to promote the race, and has been giving out Stetson hats to all of the drivers to get them in the Texan spirit.

“I’m here as a sheriff to officially welcome again the drivers as my deputies! As you can see, I’ll be giving them one of these hats [Stetsons] so they can play the part when they come to Texas, so they look like they’re Texans and enjoy the hospitality.”

Andretti was on hand to commentate on a sim race between Buxton and Force India driver Sergio Perez, which you can watch in this weekend’s episode of Paddock Pass.

For Perez, the race is also an important one. In the absence of a Mexican Grand Prix, Austin acts as his home event given that it is so close to the border, allowing flocks of Mexican fans to make the trip over.

“Yeah it is, really close to my home,” Perez said. “Right now it’s probably my home race because it’s so close and so many Mexicans come to watch the race, so it’s really a great weekend for me where I receive a lot of support.”

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.