Hamilton dominates in Mercedes 1-2 at Canadian Grand Prix

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A peerless drive from pole has witnessed Lewis Hamilton capture his third win of the season, 56th of his Formula 1 career, and sixth in the Canadian Grand Prix, leading Mercedes AMG Petronas’ first 1-2 finish of the season.

Valtteri Bottas followed him home a little ways behind, while it was the battle for third that dominated the story most of the race.

Daniel Ricciardo held on for the final podium spot in his Red Bull, ahead of Sebastian Vettel for Scuderia Ferrari, the pair of Sahara Force India Mercedes cars driven by Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, and Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari, all on differing tire strategies and with Vettel needing to make up the gap after wing damage sustained on the first lap.

Force India made strategic misstep at the worst possible time in not having Perez allow Ocon by, which may well have cost them a podium.

Meanwhile, Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso were both set to score their first points of the season in the minor placings, Stroll doing so on home soil for Williams with Alonso finally looking set to drag the McLaren Honda to one point. But even that went away as he stopped on track with just two laps to go.

It was a chaotic start with Hamilton getting away well from the pole while Vettel was swamped by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who got up to second and clipped Vettel’s right front wing end plate in the process.

Behind them, there was more drama as Romain Grosjean’s Haas and Carlos Sainz Jr.’s Toro Rosso got tangled together exiting Turn 2. Sainz’s miserable weekend came to an end on the first lap as his car careened across the road and collected Felipe Massa’s Williams in the process.

That brought out the first Safety Car of the race, and allowed Grosjean (who switched from Pirelli’s ultrasoft compound to a set of supersofts) and Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein (who did the opposite and went from supersoft to ultrasoft) to go off sequence.

Vettel pitted after the restart on Lap 5 for a front wing replacement and his own tire change to supersofts, and dropped to 18th and last on the road.

Verstappen’s blinder of a start went away quickly at Turn 2 on Lap 11, when after an upshift his TAG Heuer-badged Renault engine engaged a box full of neutrals. He ground to a halt from second place with an with an apparent battery issue, and that brought out a Virtual Safety Car.

Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer, and Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson were good to pit on this sequence.

With Verstappen out, Hamilton managed to increase his lead to more than six seconds shortly after the restart, ahead of Bottas, Ricciardo, Perez, and Raikkonen.

Pit stops followed from there with most drivers switching onto the supersoft compound, but Ricciardo went onto the softs instead.

Vettel had made it back to eighth after his first lap wing issue and subsequent pit stop in that period.

Hamilton and Ocon ran 1-2 at the time, but needed to pit. Both did so and went from ultrasofts onto supersofts.

At half distance, Hamilton led Bottas, but an intriguing battle was shaping up for the final podium spot. Ricciardo was third on the softs ahead of Perez, Raikkonen, and Ocon, with Vettel in fourth. Ocon, having pitted latest of that group, was on the freshest tires, but would need to pass all on track in order to move up the order.

Ferrari, meanwhile, reported in on Lap 37 that Vettel had a damaged floor, and would have to press on with that.

Raikkonen dispatched his supersofts for ultrasofts in the final 28 laps, which was an interesting strategic play. That meant it’d be a straight fight between the Force India teammates, Perez and Ocon, for fourth unless Raikkonen could claw back enough of a gap to overcome the deficit created by the pit stop.

A little further down the order, Lance Stroll made a series of moves to advance up to 13th, and gained another position when Alonso pitted after 43 laps on ultrasofts to go to supersofts.

He then pressed the pair of McLaren teammates, with Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne ahead of him, and would later get ahead of both of them by the end of Lap 47 to get into 11th. With Magnussen in the pits, that promoted him up to 10th and a point. He gained another spot when Daniil Kvyat pitted from ninth and suffered tires issues, with the Toro Rosso team not ready with a full set of tires. Kvyat was later told to stop the engine during the elongated stop.

Ricciardo’s pace started to fade on the softs, but he’d have to hold back the Force India twins for the final podium spot. Ocon’s fresher tires favored him in this process and Force India hinted the two should switch a position around without actually saying as much.

Vettel pitted for ultrasofts, like Raikkonen did, for a final 18-lap sprint. Both would be faster than the Force Indias as the race would draw to its conclusion.

The question then shifted to whether the Force Indias would shift positions in an attempt to overtake Ricciardo. With that not happening, the two Ferraris then immediately caught up the Force Indias.

With just five laps to go Vettel, who’d gotten by Raikkonen after an off at the final chicane, was right behind Ocon.

It almost came to tears at Turn 1 on Lap 67. Ocon was forced off wide as Vettel went to the inside at Turn 1, but with Perez having backed them both up, Ocon lost the fifth position to Vettel.

Vettel then got by Perez with Ocon still stuck behind him. Raikkonen was seventh and Hulkenberg, Stroll, and Grosjean completed the points finishers.

Alonso was set for 10th before radioing in, “engine,” and stopping again – another bitter blow in his F1 season of discontent.

The unofficial results are below.

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

Photo: Chris Estrada, NBC Sports
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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.”