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Belgian Grand Prix restarts F1’s season this week on NBCSN

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The summer break is over at long last for Formula 1, with this week’s Belgian Grand Prix set to kick off a stretch of nine races over the next 14 weeks, and features three back-to-back runs.

The first of those races is the Belgian Grand Prix at the legendary Circuit de Spa-Francorhamps this weekend, with coverage on NBCSN, CNBC and the NBC Sports App.

NBCSN will feature live race (Sunday) and free practice two (Friday) coverage, with live qualifying coverage coming on CNBC (Saturday). The NBC Sports App will be the exclusive place to watch live for free practice one (Friday) and free practice three (Saturday), and streams all live sessions.

After three weeks off and the field’s rested, Spa presents an interesting test and a bit of varied history for the field.

Sebastian Vettel’s win at Hungary extended his points lead over Lewis Hamilton to 14 points, while Valtteri Bottas is a further 19 points back in third.

The Spa track should favor the Mercedes more than the Ferrari as more of a power circuit. Mercedes has won the last two races here with Nico Rosberg a year ago having kickstarted his championship season with a win here, and with Hamilton winning here in 2015.

Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull, 2014), Vettel (Red Bull, 2013) and Jenson Button (McLaren, 2012) make it five different Belgian Grand Prix winners in the last five years – none of which are Ferrari.

Ferrari’s most recent win here was in 2009 with Kimi Raikkonen, which also remains Raikkonen’s most recent Ferrari win – he hasn’t won a Grand Prix overall since the 2013 Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne with Lotus.

Raikkonen leads active drivers with four Belgian wins (2004, 2005, 2007, 2009) while Hamilton and Vettel have two apiece, Ricciardo has the 2014 win and Felipe Massa has a 2008 win here (albeit in controversial circumstances).

Beyond the top three teams, this track could play well for the Sahara Force India team, which has occasionally overachieved at this circuit. Giancarlo Fisichella scored a pole and second place finish for the team here in 2009 and there have been other fourth place finishes scored over the years. A big opportunity could present itself for the consistent points scoring pair of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon. Williams, another Mercedes-powered team, will also look to have some success.

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

  • Practice 1: Friday, August 25, 4 a.m.-5:30 a.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Practice 2: Friday, August 25, 8 a.m.-9:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Practice 3: Saturday, August 26, 5 a.m.-6 a.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Qualifying: Saturday, August 26, 8 a.m.-9:30 a.m. ET (CNBC)
  • Qualifying (Replay): Saturday, August 26, 12:30 p.m.-2 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Pre-Race: Sunday, August 27, 7 a.m.-8 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race: Sunday, August 27, 8 a.m.-10 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Post-Race: Sunday, August 27, 10 a.m.-10:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race (Replay): Sunday, August 27, 7 p.m.-9 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race (Replay): Monday, August 28, 3 p.m.-5 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Formula 2: Sunday, August 27, 6 a.m.-7 a.m. ET (NBCSN)

The next race is the Italian Grand Prix, on September 3, for the second race in this back-to-back run.

NASCAR America: Scott Speed’s quest for Red Bull GRC three-peat

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Red Bull Global Rallycross points leader Scott Speed is going for his third consecutive championship next month (Saturday, October 14, 4:30 p.m. ET, NBC from Los Angeles) for the Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross team.

Prior to that, he joined Thursday’s edition of NBCSN’s NASCAR America, checking in with his former Red Bull Racing teammate Brian Vickers, show host Carolyn Manno and analyst Steve Letarte.

Speed talked teammate dynamics – he and Tanner Foust have been the class of the Red Bull GRC field for several years – and what it takes to succeed in the diverse championship that features racing on both pavement and dirt.

“Tanner comes from more of a more rally background and I come from more of an open-wheel, road course background,” Speed explained. “You have to meet in the middle and often times that creates success. Our personalties are polar opposites and that’s a good thing.”

One other thing Speed addressed was Austin Cindric’s couple notable incidents in the last month or so. Going for his maiden NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win, Cindric hit Kaz Grala at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park to move for the lead and ultimately the win.

Cindric then made his GRC Supercars debut at the most recent weekend in Seattle and the two collided after a miscommunication in a preliminary race, prior to the Joker section of the course.

“He’s a young kid with not a lot of experience. He’s made a couple big mistakes. He came in like a wrecking ball,” Speed laughed.

“I was more mad because the car couldn’t restart at first. But it did, and we got going.”

Public clashes over future of Detroit Grand Prix

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DETROIT (AP) State officials are deciding whether to continue hosting the Detroit Grand Prix on Belle Isle, a state park and island that opponents say is negatively impacted by the annual event.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is considering whether to allow the race to continue after its current five-year contract expires after the 2018 race.

The department held a public meeting Wednesday at the Belle Isle Nature Center to gather feedback. Dozens of residents attended.

Opponents voiced concerns about the race’s environmental impact. Several conservation groups have requested a third-party environmental impact study on how the race affects island habitat.

But supporters say the race shines a spotlight on Detroit and stimulates the economy.

The Grand Prix has occurred on Belle Isle periodically since 1992 and annually since 2012.

FIA confirms Halo crash test details, International F3 plans and more

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Following the latest meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Paris, France, a number of updates concerning the championships under the governing body’s umbrella for 2018 had been confirmed.

The stand-out news was the confirmation of a Formula E race in Zurich for June 2018, marking motorsport’s return to Switzerland after being outlawed back in 1955.

A number of tweaks have also been made to the FIA Super Licence points allocation from next year, placing a greater onus on drivers to race in Formula 2 before stepping up to Formula 1.

Here’s a run-down of all the other news from the WMSC’s meeting in Paris.

FORMULA 1

Following the F1 Strategy Group’s approval of ‘Halo’ cockpit protection being introduced to F1 from 2018, the WMSC gave its approval to the required updates in the technical regulations to allow its implementation.

The various technical details can be found in the regulations by clicking here (under Article 17), but the key point is that teams will now be able to finalize their chassis designs for 2018 now they know the crash test details.

The WMSC also confirmed that Sentronics will be the exclusive supplier of fuel flow meters in F1 for 2018 and 2019.

There is also a clampdown on oil burn in F1 for 2018 following the controversy with Mercedes and Ferrari in 2017, as well as continued plans to ban the ‘shark fin’ from next year’s regulations.

One point we already knew but is nevertheless of interest is the reduction in power unit elements permitted to each driver per season. As of 2018, each driver will be limited to just three internal combustion engines, three MGU-Hs, three turbochargers, two control electronics and two MGU-Ks per season, down from four for each element in 2017.

No updates were made to the F1 calendar for 2018, but Bahrain and China are tipped to switch places, the latter becoming the third round of the season.

INTERNATIONAL FORMULA 3

The WMSC confirmed plans to form an International Formula 3 series in 2019 in a bid to complete the pyramid from Formula 4 to F1.

Both the FIA European F3 and GP3 Series co-exist as the third rung on the single-seater ladder at the moment, with the international championship tipped to replace the latter.

The WMSC called for expressions of interest for chassis and engine suppliers for an international series, as well as a promoter.

Loose regulations have also been formed that are similar to GP3’s current rules, with a 24-car grid desired over a nine-to-10 round season featuring single-make chassis, engines and tires.

The FIA is also pushing to create more regional F3 series in the future to bridge the gap between F4 and International F3.

FIA WORLD ENDURANCE CHAMPIONSHIP

Following confirmation of Silverstone’s return to the 2018/19 ‘super season’ calendar last week, the WMSC ratified the schedule for the next WEC campaign that will last 13 months.

The technical regulation amendments for 2018 were also approved as part of the WEC’s bid to attract more manufacturers to the LMP1 class following Porsche’s shock exit.

“The FIA Endurance Commission was also encouraged to pursue a number of exciting and innovative proposals that it is currently working on, with the aim of enticing new manufacturers to the Championship,” part of the WMSC’s release reads.

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

The FIA confirmed its calendar for the 2018 WRC season, with the addition of a rally in Turkey being announced in place of Poland.

1. Rally Monte Carlo – January 28
2. Rally Sweden – February 18
3. Rally Mexico – March 11
4. Tour de Corse – April 8
5. Rally Argentina – April 29
6. Rally de Portugal – May 20
7. Rally Italia – June 10
8. Rally Finland – July 29
9. Rally Germany – August 19
10. Rally Turkey – September 16
11. Rally Great Britain – October 7
12. Rally Spain – October 28
13. Rally Australia – November 18

To see the full release from the WMSC, click here.

FIA tweaks Super Licence points allocation for 2018

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The FIA has tweaked its points allocation for the Super Licence required to race in Formula 1 for 2018, placing a greater onus on Formula 2 as being the final step on the single-seater ladder.

In a bid to tighten up on the route drivers took to reach F1, the FIA introduced a new points system for the Super Licence from 2016.

Drivers require a score of 40 points in a three-year period to be granted an FIA Super Licence, with different scores being awarded for success across a variety of categories.

Previously, drivers scored the full 40 points required for a top-two finish in GP2 (now F2) or winning the title in IndyCar, FIA Formula 3, Formula E or the FIA World Endurance Championship’s LMP1 class.

As of 2018, 40 points will only be awarded for a top-three finish in F2 or winning the IndyCar drivers’ title, with the other series facing points reductions.

One of the most devalued championships is Formula V8 3.5, formerly seen as being equivalent to GP2, with a title win previously worth 35 points now worth just 20.

Here are the points breakdowns for the most valuable championships, running from P1 in the final standings to P10.

FIA Super Licence Points Allocations

Formula 2: 40-40-40-30-20-10-8-6-4-3
IndyCar: 40-30-20-10-8-6-4-3-2-1
FIA F3: 30-25-20-10-8-6-4-3-2-1
Formula E: 30-25-20-10-8-6-4-3-2-1
WEC LMP1: 30-24-20-16-12-10-8-6-4-2
GP3: 25-20-15-10-7-5-3-2-1-0
Formula V8 3.5: 20-15-10-8-6-4-3-2-1-0
Super Formula: 20-15-10-8-6-4-3-2-1-0

You can see the full breakdown by clicking here.