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

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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.

McLaren almost back on schedule with 2018 F1 car after delay

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McLaren is almost back on schedule with its 2018 Formula 1 car development after losing two weeks due to a delay in deciding on its engine supplier, according to racing director Eric Boullier.

McLaren confirmed back in September it would be cutting ties with Honda at the end of the year after three difficult seasons, favoring a switch to Renault power units.

The decision was not taken lightly by McLaren, causing it to lose two weeks in the development of next year’s car, but Boullier confirmed in an interview with the official F1 website that the team is almost back on-track.

“Maybe we made the decision to change the engine manufacturer two weeks too late for our schedule, but these two weeks have almost been recovered,” Boullier said.

“Any big decisions are always difficult to take. The concept of McLaren winning with Honda was a dream for everybody, yes – it was a beautiful story.

“Today we have huge respect for them and we definitely don’t divorce with fights and screams and finger pointing. We are all very professional – and in the end it was a business decision, which they understand.

“There is a sadness that it didn’t work out like we wanted. McLaren-Honda in terms of brands was a good fit – in terms of results it didn’t work.

“That’s what it is in the end. Now we have to see that we get back to competitiveness – back to the top!”