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HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY - JULY 31: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates his win in parc ferme during the Formula One Grand Prix of Germany at Hockenheimring on July 31, 2016 in Hockenheim, Germany.  (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images)
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Lewis Hamilton “refreshed” after summer break, heading to Spa

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Lewis Hamilton heads into this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps both refreshed and recharged following the summer break – albeit a break which interrupted his run of four wins in a row in the month of July.

Hamilton swept into the title lead after successive wins in Austria, Britain, Hungary and Germany, and the four-for-four run of form now sees him 19 points clear of Mercedes AMG Petronas teammate Nico Rosberg heading into Spa this weekend.

As you’d expect, Hamilton went off the grid and spent a lot of time in Barbados and the Americas, but feels ready to resume his title charge this weekend. The Englishman is in search of his fourth World Championship, third in a row.

“It’s crazy how quickly this year is going by. It seems like a few weeks ago we were in Barcelona for winter testing and now we’re through the summer break, heading to Spa,” Hamilton said in the team’s race advance.

“The first half of the season was a bit of a rollercoaster, so it’s great to be in the position I’m in with more than half of the races behind us. There will be more up and downs to come, I’m sure. But the way myself and the team have performed so far gives me huge confidence.

“I’m feeling refreshed, re-energized and ready to go after a fun few weeks off, so hopefully everyone else has had a good rest too and we’ll come out fighting.”

Hamilton took pole and the win at Spa last year, marking his first Spa victory with Mercedes and second overall (McLaren in 2010).

He also has a chance to match his career-long win streak of five races in a row, achieved from the Italian through U.S. Grands Prix in 2014.

He never won more than three in a row in 2015, but this year has the four straight wins and six of the last seven dating to his surprise win in Monaco.

Additionally, he’s looking to carry the run of form for Brits in the sporting world these days.

“Spa is a great track – one that every driver enjoys. It was great to finally get back on the top step there last year, so fingers crossed I’ll be able to have another strong race this time around,” he said.

“It’s been such a proud few weeks for British sport, with the Olympics and then Cal Crutchlow becoming the first British MotoGP winner in more than 30 years. I’ll do my best to keep the flag flying this weekend. A big shout-out to the British fans heading out to this one. I’m sure they’ll be out in force as always!”

Here are your Belgian Grand Prix times on NBCSN, NBC Sports App

SPA, BELGIUM - AUGUST 23:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP drives during the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 23, 2015 in Spa, Belgium.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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After the summer break, Formula One is back in action this weekend with the Belgian Grand Prix. Live free practice two and the race occur on NBCSN while live qualifying will occur via live streaming on the NBC Sports app (link here); it will air Saturday at 1 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Full details and times for the weekend are below:

FORMULA ONE BELGIAN GRAND PRIX – SUNDAY AT 7:30 A.M. ET ON NBCSN

NBC Sports Group continues its coverage of the 2016 Formula One Championship this Sunday with the Belgian Grand Prix, as Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton aims for his fifth consecutive win and seventh victory in eight races. Hamilton now leads the drivers’ standings (217 points) by 19 points over teammate and rival Nico Rosberg (198 points) as he races towards a fourth career F1 season championship. Hamilton won last year’s race at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, the second Belgian GP win of his career (2010).

Live coverage begins exclusively on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app on Friday morning at 4 a.m. ET with Practice 1, followed by NBCSN’s live coverage of Practice 2 at 8 a.m. ET. Streaming coverage on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app continues Saturday at 5 a.m. ET with Practice 3 and live qualifying at 8 a.m. ET. NBCSN will air delayed coverage of qualifying on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET.

Live Belgian Grand Prix coverage begins Sunday morning at 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN with F1 Countdown, and is followed by F1 Extra at 10 a.m. ET.

Lead F1 announcer Leigh Diffey will call this weekend’s action, and will be joined by veteran analyst and former racecar driver David Hobbs, and analyst and former race mechanic for the Benetton F1 team Steve Matchett. F1 insider Will Buxton will serve as the team’s on-site reporter in Belgium.

Times are below:

Date Coverage Time (ET) Network
Fri., Aug. 26 F1 Belgian Grand Prix – Practice 1 4 a.m. Streaming
F1 Belgian Grand Prix – Practice 2 8 a.m. NBCSN
Sat., Aug. 27 F1 Belgian Grand Prix – Practice 3 5 a.m. Streaming
F1 Belgian Grand Prix – Qualifying 8 a.m. Streaming
F1 Belgian Grand Prix – Qualifying* 1 p.m. NBCSN
Sun., Aug. 28 GP2 Belgium 6 a.m. NBCSN
F1 Countdown 7 a.m. NBCSN
F1 Belgian Grand Prix 7:30 a.m. NBCSN
F1 Extra 10 a.m. NBCSN

Xevi Pujolar confirmed as Sauber’s new head of track engineering

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Ex-Scuderia Toro Rosso man Xevi Pujolar has a new job, as head of track engineering for the Sauber F1 Team.

Pujolar had been Max Verstappen’s race engineer. Verstappen, of course, was promoted from STR into Red Bull Racing in May and in no small coincidence, Pujolar announced he’d be leaving Toro Rosso a day later.

Here was what Sauber had to say about Pujolar’s appointment:

“The Sauber F1 Team is pleased to confirm the appointment of Xevi Pujolar as new Head of Track Engineering. The 43-year old Catalan started at the Sauber F1 Team headquarters in Hinwil after the summer break and will work in this capacity  from the Singapore Grand Prix onwards. Pujolar has worked for several Formula 1 teams; previously he worked as Senior Race Engineer at Scuderia Toro Rosso. Paul Russell, who is in the role of Chief Race Engineer on an interim basis, will be back in his previous position as Head of Performance Integration.”

Sauber has endured another tough season, currently the only team on the grid to have not scored a single point. But Pujolar is a solid get for the Swiss team, and should help spur them forward starting with this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.

Teams reveal their Pirelli picks for Italian Grand Prix

MONZA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 06:  Kimi Raikkonen of Finland and Ferrari drives during the Formula One Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 6, 2015 in Monza, Italy.  (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
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It’s Tuesday a week and a half before a Grand Prix, so you know what that means: it’s Pirelli reveal day for what selections of tires everyone has made.

Although F1 is back in action this week with the Belgian Grand Prix, the Italian Grand Prix follows on from it on Sept. 4.

A supersoft preference occurs throughout the field, with all teams having selected anywhere from six to nine (Haas F1 Team) sets of supersofts for the weekend.

There are other minor differentiations but not enough to where it looks too drastic. Monza has long been a one-stop race and it remains to be seen whether this year’s selections will make a two-stopper more amenable.

The selections, via Pirelli and the official F1 Twitter account, are linked below:

Gutierrez: Finishing 11th is ‘getting boring’

HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY - JULY 31: Esteban Gutierrez of Mexico driving the (21) Haas F1 Team Haas-Ferrari VF-16 Ferrari 059/5 turbo on track during the Formula One Grand Prix of Germany at Hockenheimring on July 31, 2016 in Hockenheim, Germany.  (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
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Haas Formula 1 driver Esteban Gutierrez says finishing 11th is “getting boring” as his points drought approaches three years.

Gutierrez joined NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas’ eponymous F1 operation for its debut season in 2016, having previously spent two years racing with Sauber in 2013 and 2014.

Haas’ charge has been led by Romain Grosjean so far this season, the Frenchman scoring all 28 of its points in the opening 12 races.

Gutierrez has come close to the top 10 on a number of occasions, recording four 11th-place finishes, much to the Mexican’s frustration.

“It’s starting to get boring to finish in 11th position,” Gutierrez said.

“It has been better and better for me every race, less problems, more consistency. It’s not nice to finish races too many times in 11th position.

“But I’m convinced that I will get my chances, as there’s still half of the season left and I know what I’m capable of.

“Finishing in front of my teammate is the first goal, but it’s not enough for me.”

Gutierrez’s last points came in the 2013 Japanese Grand Prix when he finished seventh for Sauber, which remains his only top-10 finish in F1.