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Bottas leads final Japan F1 practice despite early crash (VIDEO)

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Valtteri Bottas closed out practice for the Japanese Grand Prix leading the timesheets for Mercedes despite crashing early in FP3, completing just nine laps in total on Saturday morning.

Mercedes was eager to bounce back and respond to Ferrari’s Friday pace at Suzuka, and did so early on as Bottas and teammate Lewis Hamilton rose to the top of the order with quick laps on the soft compound tire.

Bottas’ early time of 1:29.055 proved quick enough to give him P1 come the checkered flag despite only featuring in the first third of the session.

FP3 at Suzuka was interrupted by two red flag periods, the first coming after 20 minutes when Bottas hit the wall at the exit of Spoon, leaving debris strewn across the track.

Bottas was able to limp back to the pits, albeit with significant damage to the right-rear corner of his Mercedes W08 car that meant he was unable to get back out on-track as the team completed repairs.

The session returned to green 10 minutes after Bottas’ shunt, only for the red flag to return not long after when Kimi Raikkonen ran wide at Degner 2 and slid into the barrier, damaging the left-hand side of his Ferrari.

Friday’s limited running meant many teams did not chase outright lap time in FP3, with Bottas’ lap going unbeaten through the session as Hamilton finished just 0.014 seconds further back in the second Mercedes.

Title contender Sebastian Vettel did flirt with a quick lap late on for Ferrari, but ultimately finished three-tenths of a second behind Bottas on the super-soft tire.

Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo completed the top five for Red Bull, while Esteban Ocon led the close-knit midfield in sixth for Force India ahead of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg.

Ocon and Hulkenberg’s respective teammates, Sergio Perez and Jolyon Palmer, completed the top 10 behind McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, who finished eighth-fastest.

Qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 2am ET on Saturday.

NBC Sports Group, INDYCAR partner on new TV and digital rights agreement starting in 2019

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NBC Sports Group and INDYCAR officials this morning announced a new partnership beginning in 2019 that will take the sport in an exciting new direction.

The new all-encompassing agreement includes TV and digital rights to all INDYCAR races — including the legendary Indianapolis 500. NBCSN has been INDYCAR’s cable partner since 2009, but this new agreement is all-encompassing and includes broadcast, cable, digital, streaming, and direct-to-consumer rights for all INDYCAR races, qualifying, practices and more.

All races will be carried live, with eight races — including the Indy 500 — on NBC, while the remaining races will be televised on NBCSN.

Here is the official news release announcing the new partnership:



New Agreement Includes Rights to All Races, Qualifying, and Practices

Indianapolis 500 Moves to NBC in 2019

Indy 500 and Seven Additional Races on NBC Annually; Remaining Races on NBCSN; All Races Live Streamed on and the NBC Sports app

NBC Sports Gold Direct-to-Consumer Package Includes Qualifying, Practices, Indy Lights, and Full-Event Replays

STAMFORD, Conn. – March 21, 2018 – NBC Sports Group and INDYCAR announced a new, multi-year media rights agreement today in which NBC Sports has acquired the rights to present all INDYCAR races, qualifying, practices, and Indy Lights races across its platforms beginning in 2019. Financial terms were not disclosed.

The Indianapolis 500 and seven additional Verizon IndyCar Series races will be broadcast annually on NBC, with all remaining races televised on NBCSN. All races will be live streamed to authenticated subscribers on and the NBC Sports app. Details of NBC Sports’ 2019 INDYCAR schedule will be announced at a later date.

NBC Sports Gold – NBC Sports Group’s direct-to-consumer product – will offer a package to INDYCAR fans that features all qualifying and practices not televised live, all Indy Lights races, and full-event replays. Additional details, including the cost of the Gold offering, will be announced at a later date.

“We’re excited to have NBC Sports serve as the exclusive home of INDYCAR, which represents the most competitive open-wheel racing in the world,” said Jon Miller, President, Programming, NBC Sports and NBCSN. “We’re honored to bring the Indianapolis 500, one of the most prestigious events in all of sports, to NBC, further enhancing NBC Sports’ Championship Season. We’ve seen consistent growth for INDYCAR on NBCSN in the past decade, and we hope to continue that growth throughout the series by leveraging the television, digital, production and marketing assets that make NBC Sports a powerful media partner.”

“This arrangement brings all of INDYCAR to one home, increases our exposure and includes our first direct-to-consumer offer for our fans,” said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company, which owns INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “We couldn’t be happier to have start-to-finish coverage of INDYCAR’s season with the NBC Sports Group.”

The 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500, set for Sunday, May 26, 2019, will be the first ever on NBC. The Indy 500 will also be included every year in NBC Sports’ Championship Season marketing campaign, which touts numerous high-profile championship events that are presented across NBC Sports platforms from May to July, including the Triple Crown, The PLAYERS, Premier League Championship Sunday, French Open, Stanley Cup Final, Tour de France, and The Open Championship.

The entire Verizon IndyCar Series will receive unprecedented marketing and promotional support from NBC Sports, which will utilize not only its own assets, but many NBCUniversal assets as well. With the Indy 500 and seven additional races on NBC, INDYCAR will have the second-most races on broadcast television in all of motorsports.