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What to watch for: British Grand Prix (CNBC, NBC Sports app from 7:30am ET)

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Lewis Hamilton’s charge to pole position at Silverstone in Saturday’s Formula 1 qualifying session for the British Grand Prix acted as the latest twist in a strange week for the sport.

Having announced and held a groundbreaking demonstration in the very heart of London earlier this week, F1 was dealt a blow when Silverstone confirmed it would be breaking its current contract after 2019 to host the British Grand Prix.

Hamilton, meanwhile, came under fire for being the only current driver to have missed the London showcase, only to then send the home crowd into raptures with a remarkable final lap in qualifying on Saturday.

You can watch the British Grand Prix live on CNBC and the NBC Sports app from 7:30am ET on Sunday.Β CLICK HERE to watch via live stream.

Here’s what to watch for in today’s race from Silverstone.

2017 British Grand Prix – What to watch for

Hamilton chases fifth home win

Lewis Hamilton may have scored a PR own-goal earlier this week by missing the live event in London, but his on-track exploits have done much to impress the baying crowd at Silverstone so far this week.

Hamilton’s continued success has put more and more records in his sights, and a fifth win at Silverstone on Sunday would tie him up with Jim Clark and Alain Prost for the all-time record.

Hamilton looked imperious through qualifying, so if can channel the home support in the same kind of way on Sunday, it would be a massive result for his championship bid.

Ferrari hopes to make numbers count

Ferrari may have struggled to match Mercedes’ pace through Friday practice or qualifying, but it heads into Sunday’s race with one key advantage: numbers.

Following Valtteri Bottas’ grid penalty for a gearbox change, Hamilton will have to fend off the Scuderia by himself at the front. Kimi Raikkonen starts second on Sunday ahead of Sebastian Vettel in P3.

Ferrari has traditionally gone stronger in the races so far this season than qualifying, giving Vettel some hope that he can rain on Hamilton’s parade and extend his championship lead.

Bottas, Ricciardo plot fightbacks from grid penalties

Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo have been two of F1’s in-form racers recently, yet both have a challenge to continue their good recent record after being hit with grid penalties at Silverstone for gearbox changes.

Bottas drops from P4 to P9 on the grid, giving him a challenge to battle back through the midfield and rejoin the Mercedes/Ferrari train ot front, while Ricciardo will start P19 after a turbo issue in qualifying forced him out in Q1.

The high-speed 2017 cars have been spectacular to watch so far this weekend at Silverstone. Seeing them pick their way back through the field should be particularly exciting to watch.

Genuine hope for McLaren at home?

McLaren has not won the British Grand Prix since 2008, and while that is highly unlikely to change today, the team does head into the race with some genuine hope that it could hit the points.

The ‘Spec 3’ Honda power unit upgrade has offered a noticeable step forward in terms of performance, allowing Stoffel Vandoorne to partake in Q3 for the first time this season on Saturday.

The Belgian will start the race eighth on the grid, while teammate Fernando Alonso faces his usual challenge of recovering from the back of the field after grid penalties for power unit changes.

Strangely though, at a high-speed circuit where power matters, things may not be so bleak for McLaren.

2017 British Grand Prix – Starting Grid

1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
3. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari
4. Max Verstappen Red Bull
5. Nico Hulkenberg Renault
6. Sergio Perez Force India
7. Esteban Ocon Force India
8. Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren
9. Valtteri Bottas Mercedes*
10. Romain Grosjean Haas
11. Jolyon Palmer Renault
12. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso
13. Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso
14. Felipe Massa Williams
15. Lance Stroll Williams
16. Kevin Magnussen Haas
17. Pascal Wehrlein Sauber
18. Marcus Ericsson Sauber
19. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull**
20. Fernando Alonso Red Bull***

* Valtteri Bottas received a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change.
** Daniel Ricciardo received a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change.
*** Fernando Alonso received a 30-place grid penalty for multiple power unit changes.

NASCAR America: Newgarden recaps rise to IndyCar title (VIDEO)

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Newly crowned Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden joined NBCSN’s NASCAR America on Tuesday to reflect on his rise to the top of the series.

Newgarden chatted with show host Carolyn Manno about his championship season, integration to Team Penske and bonding with his three teammates, Will Power, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud.

Pagenaud won Sunday’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma season finale but it wasn’t enough to overcome Newgarden’s points lead.

 

Report: Verizon likely to drop IndyCar title sponsorship after ’18

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One of the under-the-radar elements that’s percolated in the Verizon IndyCar Series paddock this year is Verizon’s activation strategy itself, in its fourth year of its first five-year deal as title sponsor of the championship.

Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles, head of INDYCAR’s parent company, told the Sports Business Journal’s Adam Stern while he thinks it’s likely Verizon will end its title sponsorship of the series after 2018, they hope to continue the relationship in a different capacity.

While Verizon got in before 2014, IndyCar was a viable platform for the wireless company to activate in a way it couldn’t in NASCAR, when Sprint was the Cup Series’ title sponsor.

That’s since changed with Sprint’s contract ending after 2016. Verizon still activates within the paddock, working with CSM Sport & Entertainment, but its activation outside the paddock has seemed rather limited this year.

Verizon’s primary point of access or reference point of digital technology has been the Verizon IndyCar Mobile app, which was initially only for Verizon Wireless users but was later expanded to other carriers. That provides some app-specific exclusive content as well as a compilation of written, photographic and video content from IndyCar.com.

Even in the paddock, a Verizon-sponsored “Lunch with Legends” series – where some of IndyCar’s stars from the past had lunch at tracks with fans to provide some exclusive access – was not retained for 2017. Verizon hosted an event at a 5G-outfitted house in Indianapolis this year, prior to the Indianapolis 500, to showcase some of that network capability and virtual reality (VR) technology.

Provided Verizon does not continue as title sponsor past 2018, it would leave the IndyCar series in almost the same situation as prior title sponsor IZOD was in 2013, with a lame duck year.

The absence of a Verizon contract renewal has lurked beneath the surface all year in a year when INDYCAR (sanctioning body) has announced several long-term extensions with key manufacturer partners Dallara, Firestone, Chevrolet, Honda and many of its race tracks.

The competition side of IndyCar has done rather well and has enough momentum with Jay Frye at the head of its President of Competition and Operations for the last two years.

But it’s imperative for IndyCar’s sake its commercial side does as well too, which will make the 2018 season an interesting one from a “how to progress” and find a partner that can truly activate to lift the series’ profile even bigger than it is now.

The title sponsor evolution and the series’ new TV contract, with the current one set to end after 2018, enter as the early leaders in the clubhouse for biggest off-track stories to follow over the winter and into the start of 2018.

Vettel loses huge ground in title race after Singapore blip

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SINGAPORE (AP) In the space of three races, Sebastian Vettel has dropped twice as far behind Lewis Hamilton as he was ahead of him.

After winning the Hungarian Grand Prix in late July, Vettel led by 14 points, with both drivers on four wins heading into the summer break.

But after crashing out on the first lap in Sunday’s Singapore GP, the Ferrari driver trails Hamilton by 28.

“That was very disappointing and it was definitely not the result we were expecting,” Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene said. “But it doesn’t mean that the battle is all over, just that it has become more difficult.”

Yet it might seem to Mercedes that, for all of his experience, Vettel is throwing away the Formula One title.

“Clearly we would not feel comfortable in Ferrari’s shoes,” Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff said. “But this is not the time for cheering.”

Hamilton has won all three races relatively comfortably since the championship resumed in August, and with only six GPs remaining Vettel faces a huge task to stop Hamilton.

“We guarantee that we will be fighting right to the final corner of the very last Grand Prix of the year,” Arrivabene said.

Mercedes is still expecting a challenge.

“This result doesn’t change a thing in the big picture,” Wolff said. “If anything, it’s a stark reminder that there are six more opportunities for the luck to go against us this season, just as it happened to Ferrari.”

But it will be abundantly harder now for Vettel because, unlike last season, Hamilton has so far not retired from any races. Although he has failed to finish on the podium four times for Mercedes this season, that is the same number as Vettel’s finishes outside the top three.

After winning three of the first six races, Vettel’s grip has loosened with only one win in the past eight.

Points have been thrown away, too.

At the British GP in July, Vettel looked at least assured of a podium finish until an unexpected tire problem at the end of the race bumped him down to seventh.

On Sunday, he had a great chance to win starting from pole position on a hard-braking track much more suited to Ferrari than Mercedes.

A few seconds later, he was out of the race.

Vettel made a hasty error of judgment trying to cut off Max Verstappen heading into the first turn and ultimately caused a crash that also took out Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen – who had made a blistering start – Verstappen and Fernando Alonso.

Vettel apologized to his Ferrari team afterward.

With both Ferraris out, Mercedes had a clear path as Hamilton won his 60th career race and teammate Valtteri Bottas took third.

Mercedes faced a similar scenario at the Spanish GP last year, when Hamilton and then-teammate Nico Rosberg collided on lap 1 and both went out. Mercedes was livid with both drivers that day, and came perilously close to imposing team orders on them.

“You kind of feel for Ferrari. I have been in the situation of losing both cars,” Wolff said. “I know how bitter this is.”

The difference was that Hamilton and Rosberg were fighting each other for the title and, with no main rival from another team, it effectively cost them nothing.

Within Mercedes, Hamilton’s title charge is now the priority.

Although team orders are very unlikely to be imposed, it is clear – unofficially at least – that Bottas will be racing to help Hamilton equal Vettel on four world titles.

Wolff confirmed as much when he inadvertently referred to Bottas as “our second driver” in his post-race debriefing on Sunday, before quickly correcting himself to say “ah, other driver.”

Bottas has had a fine first season since joining as an emergency late replacement for Rosberg, who retired days after winning the 2016 title. Bottas has even exceeded expectations with 10 podiums in 14 races, including two wins, and sits in third place overall.

With a new contract for next year already signed, the Finnish driver has no need to impress Mercedes management and can play an ideal support role to Hamilton in the closing part of the campaign.

Still, he has a little bit of ambition left.

“There are plenty of races to come and plenty of opportunities,” said Bottas, who is 23 points behind Vettel. “Definitely Sebastian is the next target.”

With Hamilton ahead and Bottas closing behind, Vettel is under pressure to deliver at the Malaysian GP in two weeks’ time.

Ocon confirmed for another year at Force India

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Sahara Force India will keep the same driver lineup in 2018, with Esteban Ocon confirming Tuesday he’ll stay alongside Sergio Perez next season.

Although the two drivers have occasionally been at odds this year as Ocon has threatened Perez’s place as team leader, both have been instrumental in keeping Force India a clear fourth place in the Constructor’s Championship, at the top of the crowded midfield behind Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.

Ocon’s had a very strong year, with 56 points scored and having made the points in all but one race (Monaco) this season. His best finish is fifth at the Spanish Grand Prix.

Being confirmed for 2018 means like others, the jockeying for spots in 2019 will be fascinating to watch.