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Bold strategy hands Nasr, Sauber first F1 points of 2016 in Brazil

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Sauber picked up its first points of the 2016 Formula 1 season on Sunday as Felipe Nasr finished the Brazilian Grand Prix in ninth place.

In a year blighted by financial difficulties, Sauber has found itself sitting bottom of the constructors’ championship since the Austrian Grand Prix when fellow backmarkers Manor managed to get Pascal Wehrlein across the line in P10.

Nasr started 21st in Brazil, but a bold strategy call from the Sauber pit wall allowed him to make up positions as others opted to switch tires on numerous occasions.

Nasr ran as high as sixth in the closing stages, but was powerless to keep the likes of Max Verstappen, Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo behind.

The Brazilian managed to hold on to ninth place at the checkered flag, picking up two points for Sauber and lifting the team above Manor in the standings.

“I have no words to describe now. But it feels amazing, the way it all happened,” Nasr told NBCSN after the race.

“I never really gave up even though the year has been difficult. Here could be the opportunity. Sunday will be an important day to keep the car on the track.

“When it came I was here and ready for every single part of the race. The track conditions were nuts. I couldn’t have hoped for better. To do it here in Brazil was great. An incredible feeling.”

Nasr admitted that the result eased some of the pressure on the team after a difficult year, with the difference between 10th and 11th in the constructors’ standings equating to tens of millions of dollars in prize money.

“A difficult year. But I never lost confidence in the team,” Nasr said.

“It was a matter of putting things together. I saw it and I said I’m going to give everything today. Hard to keep [Fernando] Alonso behind. But that’s racing. I really enjoyed it today.”

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.