Getty Images

Azerbaijan Grand Prix sees start of busy month for F1 on NBCSN

Leave a comment

A busy month of action for Formula 1 from now until the summer break at the end of July kicks off with this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, the first of four races in the next six weekends.

Live coverage occurs this weekend across several NBC Sports Group networks, NBCSN and CNBC, with streaming on the NBC Sports App.

TV times for live sessions are qualifying Saturday at 9 a.m. ET on CNBC and the race Sunday at 8 a.m. ET on NBCSN.

Free practice two airs live Friday at 9 a.m. ET on the NBC Sports App and is televised at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

This is F1’s second trip to Baku for the renamed Azerbaijan Grand Prix, which was last year called the European Grand Prix. It also comes a week after the 24 Hours of Le Mans, rather than on the same weekend, which may prevent it from being overlooked on the global motorsport calendar.

We’re also guaranteed a new winner at this track, because Nico Rosberg won here last year for Mercedes AMG Petronas. But with the World Champion having left the sport at the end of last year, someone new will hoist the trophy on Sunday.

Championship protagonists Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton are keen to do so; Vettel of Scuderia Ferrari leads Hamilton of Mercedes by 12 points, 141-129, heading into this weekend’s race.

Vettel was second here last year while Hamilton was fifth. If Hamilton wins here, it will complete his run of winning at every active circuit on the 2017 Formula 1 calendar.

Additionally, a Hamilton win would be the first time a driver has won consecutive races this year, as this is Round 8 of the season. Vettel and Hamilton are on three wins each, with Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas picking up the other win of the year in Russia.

Kimi Raikkonen will be looking for his first win of the year for Ferrari as well. He was fourth here last year.

Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo has finished third in each of the last three races but has been fortunate to benefit from poor luck, reliability or strategy from at least one of the Ferrari, Mercedes or Red Bull drivers in those races. Neither he nor Max Verstappen is expected to contend for a podium on outright pace.

The Sahara Force India teammates enter with the microscope firmly on them after missing out on a potential podium finish in Canada. A potential third and fourth/fifth place results for Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez became fifth for Perez and sixth for Ocon after the two drivers were not switched around with Ocon on fresher Pirelli tires. Perez was third here last year while Ocon makes his Baku debut.

Here’s the schedule, with stream links and TV network if applicable:

  • Practice 1: Friday, June 23, 5 a.m.-6:30 a.m. ET (Full replay)
  • Practice 2: Friday, June 23, 9 a.m.-10:30 a.m. ET (Full replay)
  • Practice 2 (Replay): Friday, June 23, 2 p.m.-3:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Practice 3: Saturday, June 24, 6 a.m.-7 a.m. ET (Story; Full replay)
  • Qualifying: Saturday, June 24, 9 a.m.-10:30 a.m. ET  (Story; Full replay)
  • Qualifying (Replay): Saturday, June 24, 1 p.m.-2:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Qualifying (Replay): Sunday, June 25, 7 a.m.-8 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Pre-Race: Sunday, June 25, 8 a.m.-8:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race: Sunday, June 25, 8:30 a.m.-11 a.m. ET (StoryFull replay)
  • Post-Race: Sunday, June 25, 11 a.m.-11:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Formula 2 Race 1: Saturday, June 24, 4 a.m.-5:05 a.m. ET (Full replay)
  • Formula 2 Race 2: Sunday, June 25, 6 a.m.-6:50 a.m. ET (Full replay)
  • Formula 2 Race (Replay): Sunday, June 25, 6 a.m.-7 a.m. ET (NBCSN)

The next race is the Austrian Grand Prix, on July 9.

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

Photo: Chris Estrada, NBC Sports
1 Comment

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.”