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WATCH LIVE: Japanese GP on NBCSN, NBC Sports app from 12am ET

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Lewis Hamilton can take a major step towards clinching a fourth Formula 1 world title when he leads the field away from pole position for Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix.

Currently leading chief rival Sebastian Vettel by 34 points at the top of the drivers’ championship, Hamilton swept to pole with a stunning lap that saw him break the existing track record at Suzuka by almost two seconds.

F1 JAPANESE GRAND PRIX LIVE STREAM

Vettel will start alongside Hamilton on the front row of the grid, and with temperatures running high at Suzuka, things could play in Ferrari’s favor as it looks to bounce back from a rough run of races.

Grid penalties for Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen have forced both drivers to run alternate strategies, starting on the soft compound tire, giving them the chance to fight through the field in the closing stages. Pirelli has predicted this could be a two-stop race, aiding their chances.

Suzuka has a history for spectacular F1 races, and Sunday’s event could be just the latest chapter in its steeped story.

You can watch the Japanese Grand Prix live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 12am ET. CLICK HERE for NBCSN live stream.

You can also try out a new ‘Mosaic View’ for the race that includes the race simulcast, in-car cameras, driver tracker and pit lane cam. CLICK HERE to watch the Mosaic View live stream.

Leigh Diffey, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett will be on the call, with pit reporter Will Buxton providing updates and interviews throughout the race from Suzuka.

Also be sure to follow the @F1onNBCSports Twitter account for live updates throughout the race.

2017 Japanese Grand Prix – Starting Grid

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

* Five-place grid penalty for gearbox change
** 20-place grid penalty for power unit changes
*** 35-place grid penalty for power unit changes

Audi bids farewell to Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich upon retirement

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Audi bid farewell to its iconic head of motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, at its end-of-season ‘Race Night’ event in Germany on Friday upon his retirement.

Ullrich took over the reins as Audi’s head of motorsport in 1993 and stayed in the role for 23 years, overseeing its arrival in the prototype class of sports car racing and domination of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ullrich stepped down from the position at the end of 2016, handing the reins over to ex-Audi DTM chief Dieter Gass, and attended his final racing event with the German marque at its first works Formula E outing in Hong Kong earlier this month.

Ullrich was honored at the Race Night event on Friday and thanked for his efforts in developing Audi into a force within global motorsport.

“In 566 factory-backed commitments during this period he celebrated 209 victories, 13 of them in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, eleven in the 12-hour race at Sebring and nine in the ‘Petit Le Mans’ at Road Atlanta,” a piece on Ullrich’s tenure for Audi’s website reads.

“31 driver titles in super touring car racing, in the DTM and in the sports prototype category are credited to him. 57 campaigners were Audi factory drivers during Wolfgang Ullrich’s era and he was responsible for 18 new developments of racing cars – an impressive tally.”