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What to watch for: Brazilian GP (NBCSN, NBC Sports app from 10am ET)

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Both Formula 1 championships may have already been settled for 2017, but there is still plenty to play for at Interlagos on Sunday in the Brazilian Grand Prix (NBCSN, NBC Sports app from 10am ET).

BRAZIL F1 LIVE STREAM

An uncharacteristic error from Lewis Hamilton saw the recently-crowned four-time F1 world champion crash out early in qualifying, resigning him to a pit lane start on Sunday.

It was left to Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas to pick up the mantle and charge to his third F1 pole, edging out Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel with a last-gasp lap in Q3.

With Hamilton fighting his way through the field and the likes of Bottas, Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen all poised to scrap for victory, the stage is set for a thrilling race in Brazil.

You can watch the Brazilian Grand Prix live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 10am ET on Sunday. CLICK HERE to watch via live stream.

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

2017 Brazilian Grand Prix – What to watch for

Bottas, Vettel seek to end barren run

Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel’s fight for pole in Brazil was a thriller, with just 0.038 seconds separating the pair come the checkered flag in Q3.

Both drivers are in need of a big result in the race, with neither having won since July as their championship bids fell apart, allowing Lewis Hamilton to stream clear at the top of the championship standings.

Mercedes and Ferrari both looked strong through the long runs in practice on Friday, meaning we should be set for a close fight at the front. A straightforward one-stop race is expected, so barring any out-of-the-norm incidents, it may descend into a real dogfight for victory.

How far can Hamilton make his way up the order?

Hamilton’s Q1 crash came as a big surprise to the F1 paddock, acting as the Briton’s first major error in what has otherwise been arguably his most impressive season in the sport to date.

The shunt left his Mercedes car with a sizeable amount of damage, with the team confirming it would be starting Hamilton from the pit lane so it could make a number of changes, including fitting a new power unit, requiring a breach in parc ferme conditions.

With a fresh power unit in the car that needs to only complete two races, Hamilton can turn things up and push hard in his fightback, making a top-five finish definitely within reach.

But could he go even further than that, and capture a remarkable result to cap off a remarkable season?

Red Bull left to think outside the box

Red Bull has arguably been the team to beat in F1 recently, with Max Verstappen’s emphatic victories in Malaysia and Mexico breathing fresh life into the team’s season.

Despite high hopes heading to Brazil, Red Bull has found itself struggling to match the likes of Mercedes and Ferrari for pace, with Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo taking P4 and P5 in qualifying.

Verstappen will need to do all he can to try and produce a display akin to his stunning charge at Interlagos last year, with the Red Bull RB13 car seemingly not up to the task in Brazil over the long-runs.

Ricciardo faces an even greater task, starting 14th on the grid following a penalty for an engine change. Look for how he fares compared to Hamilton when rising up the field.

Can Force India or McLaren deliver a shock result?

With Hamilton’s crash and Ricciardo’s penalty, the midfield runners were given the opportunity to break into the ordinarily impenetrable front three rows of the grid in Brazil, with Force India and McLaren being up to the task.

After seeing their teammates drop out in Q2, Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso were able to turn in remarkable displays to secure P5 and P6 on the grid respectively, leading the close-knit midfield runners.

Perez has been chasing a breakthrough podium for Force India all year long, while Alonso stands a good chance of bagging a good haul of points, even if he is 16 km/h slower on the straights than the pace-setters.

Can Alonso produce a flying start like he did in Singapore to give McLaren-Honda a boost at the end of a rough season?

2017 Brazilian Grand Prix – Starting Grid

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

IMSA: Heavy news week leading into Thanksgiving holiday

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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After the weekend and before the Thanksgiving holiday this week, IMSA has rolled out a number of announcements itself, while IMSA could be set for further announcements in the weeks to come starting next week.

Here’s a roundup:

QUALIFYING AT ROAR SET FOR PIT POSITIONS, GARAGES AT ROLEX 24

Here are key notes from IMSA’s Monday release about how Sunday at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 will take on a greater significance:

  • The pit boxes and garages each team will use during the Rolex 24 will now be allocated based on fastest qualifying times set during Sunday’s third and final day of the Roar. Each of the three WeatherTech Championship classes – Prototype (P), GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) – will have a 15-minute qualifying session on Sunday, Jan. 7.
  • The fastest-qualifying Prototype will receive the first pit box on pit lane starting at pit-in and also will be assigned to the first garage in the Prototype section of the WeatherTech Championship garage. The fastest GTD car will receive the second pit box on pit lane and the first garage in the GTD section, with the fastest GTLM car receiving the third pit box and the first garage in the GTLM section.
  • New for 2018 – P and GTLM will pit together under a full course yellow. Therefore, to give class separation in the pits, P and GTLM teams are assigned pit boxes to ensure they are separated by a GTD Team.

This, coupled with the addition of the first IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda one-hour, 45-minute race with two drivers, will make this a more shaken up Roar.

REGS, REGS, GET YOUR REGS

IMSA has released the Sporting and Technical Regulations for 2018 this week. The aforementioned note about P and GTLM teams pitting together is a change from P and Prototype Challenge (PC) class cars pitting together, with GTLM and GTD together as it was this year.

Restart procedures changed will see P cars moved to the lead ahead of GT cars; this created confusion at times throughout 2017 as sometimes another class leader in PC, GTLM or GTD had been the first car behind a pace car.

Each team will be limited to one car change in-season only, subject to “force majeure.”

On the off chance a driver is racing in two cars, his or her maximum drive time will be counted cumulatively between the two cars.

There are other tweaks, of course, but most are largely procedural or within the fine print.

RATINGS REVEALED

The good news with IMSA going down from four classes to three for 2018 is that only one designated pro-am class remains in the form of GT Daytona, which requires at least one Silver (or Bronze) full-season driver alongside the designated pro. Those sneaky “Super Silvers” remain an invaluable asset for using his or her results to their benefit.

The FIA released the initial driver ratings for 2018 this week with a few changes, some young pros going up from Silver to Gold and others getting their request to get downgraded from Gold to Silver approved. Drivers have a couple weeks to appeal if they so desire.

Here’s your friendly reminder of what drivers can be in what GTD cars for the first two races at Daytona and Sebring:

  • Daytona (5 drivers max): GTD: In any nominated two (2) or three (3) Driver combination, a maximum of one (1) Platinum or Gold rated Driver is permitted. In any nominated four (4) or five (5) Driver combination, a maximum of one (1) Platinum and (1) Gold rated Driver are permitted or a maximum of (2) Gold Drivers.
  • Sebring (4 drivers max): GTD: In any nominated two (2) or three (3) Driver combination, a maximum of one (1) Platinum or Gold rated Driver is permitted. In any nominated four (4) Driver combination, a maximum of one (1) Platinum and (1) Gold rated Driver are permitted or a maximum of (2) Gold Drivers.

MAZDA KEEPS ON TESTING, CLOSES ON ANNOUNCEMENTS

The Los Angeles Auto Show, held after Thanksgiving, is a likely landing spot for Mazda Team Joest to reveal, officially, its revised “Evo” version of the Mazda RT24-P and its driver lineup for the 2018 season. While most of the Prototype class lineups (DPi and LMP2-spec cars) have been revealed, Mazda’s has been an exception. In the interim, not long after its Daytona test late last month, they’ve also been testing at Sebring.

FROM SPACE CENTER TO DOWN UNDER

Jordan Taylor undertook testing of a different kind not long ago at, of all places, the Kennedy Space Center. One of this year’s Prototype class champions was undertaking a straight line test in his No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R. Taylor being Taylor, the moment couldn’t pass without him winning at social media (see third tweet).

Taylor goes from down a long runway to down under, visiting his first Virgin Australia Supercars Championship race this weekend at its season finale in Newcastle.

‘MAKING OF A CHAMPION’ PIECES ROLL OUT

The fourth installment of IMSA’s “making of a champion” series highlights Jordan Taylor, who co-drove with brother Ricky to the Prototype class championship this year. These two are part of four done by IMSA so far, along with Pato O’Ward (PC) and Christina Nielsen (GTD). More should follow in the coming weeks.

SPEAKING OF CHAMPS, HINDMAN, AGOSTINI, PRESTIGE WIN LAMBORGHINI WORLD FINAL

The Lamborghini Super Trofeo World Final was held last weekend at the Imola circuit in Italy and the American Prestige Performance team won the World Final overall, with co-drivers Trent Hindman and Riccardo Agostini.

The World Final brings together teams from North America, Europe and Asia that campaign the spec Lamborghini Huracán LP 620-2 in Super Trofeo regional competition. Hindman and Agostini got the weekend off on the right foot by winning the North American championship first, then followed it up at the World Final itself to topple all other domestic and international entries.

You might remember we profiled Hindman last month, as the 22-year-old’s star in the sports car world is clearly on the rise.

Somehow, someway, at the end of the day today we received the title 2017 Lamborghini Super Trofeo World Champions. Race 2 was not perfect and much more nerve racking than we would have hoped but fortunately in the end the job was done. I am honored to be sharing this with @rickyagostini as well as the entire @prestigeperfctr @waynetaylorracing team and I thank them for their incredible effort all year. With this result, we are the first ever American team to win the Lamborghini Super Trofeo World Championship overall. 3/4 overall wins along with the Super Trofeo North America and World titles marks the end of a successful 2017 campaign. Back to reality tomorrow. Thank you all for following us along on this incredible journey.

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