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Hamilton completes 2018 Pirelli tire test at Paul Ricard

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Just four days after becoming Formula 1’s first back-to-back winner in 2017 and taking the lead of the drivers’ championship for the first time, Lewis Hamilton was back behind the wheel of his Mercedes W08 to take part in a Pirelli tire test at Paul Ricard.

As part of an extensive testing program for next year’s tires that features all 10 teams, Mercedes kicked off two days’ worth of running at Paul Ricard on Thursday.

Not known for being a prolific voluntary tester, Hamilton flew into Paul Ricard in the morning by helicopter before completing a series of runs on Pirelli’s prototype tires.

Hamilton completed 114 laps in total at Paul Ricard, with the circuit confirmed to be joining next year’s F1 calendar when the French Grand Prix returns.

Hamilton will hand over testing duties to Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas on Friday.

WATCH LIVE: Italian GP on NBCSN, NBC Sports app from 7am ET

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Formula 1’s final race of the European season, the Italian Grand Prix from the historic and stunning Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, runs this morning on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7 a.m. ET to kick off a busy day of motorsports, with IndyCar and NASCAR to follow.

F1 ITALIAN GRAND PRIX LIVE STREAM

Pre-race coverage runs for an hour from 7 a.m. ET through to 8 a.m. ET, with lights out at that point.

One of the more chaotic and random qualifying sessions in recent memory – and one which took more than three hours to complete with a rain delay – ended with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton on the pole position, a record 69th for his career.

While Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were second and third on the road during qualifying in their two Red Bulls, grid penalties for them and several others have rapidly jumbled the grid and dropped them down the order (the qualifying times were below).

It instead sets up an abnormal and fascinating situation where Lance Stroll in his Williams now moves up to the front row, with Esteban Ocon in his Force India moving up to third.

Valtteri Bottas will start fourth in the second Mercedes with the pair of Ferraris, Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel, rolling off from fifth and sixth, respectively.

Heading into today’s race, Vettel leads Hamilton just by seven points, 220 to 213.

If Hamilton wins, he’ll be the first driver with back-to-back victories this season ahead of Round 13.

You can watch the Italian Grand Prix live on NBC and the NBC Sports app from 7am 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 Monza.

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

Italian Grand Prix set to cap European season this week on NBCSN

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The Italian Grand Prix concludes Formula 1’s European season this weekend on NBCSN, as the second leg of a back-to-back trip for the series after last week’s Belgian Grand Prix.

NBCSN will feature live coverage for free practice two, qualifying and the race this weekend at the traditional European race time slots of 8 a.m. ET both Friday and Saturday for practice and qualifying, and a full hour of pre-race coverage Sunday for the race.

Usual free practice one and three coverage airs live exclusively on the NBC Sports App, which streams all sessions.

The Autodromo Nazionale di Monza is the spiritual home of F1, and the official home for Ferrari’s fan base – the tifosi – where nothing less than victory will do.

Ferrari has won the Italian Grand Prix 19 times, but hasn’t won there since 2010 when Fernando Alonso did so in his first year with the team. That’s been Ferrari’s lone win in the last decade at Monza since Michael Schumacher’s emotional, memorable 2006 win when he announced his first retirement from the sport the same weekend.

Sebastian Vettel’s won at Monza three times, in 2008 with Toro Rosso in both his and the team’s first career victory, then with Red Bull in 2011 and 2013. With Ferrari, Vettel finished second in 2015 and third last year.

Mercedes has won the last three races at Monza with Nico Rosberg winning last year and Lewis Hamilton winning in 2014 and 2015. Hamilton also has a 2012 Monza win with McLaren on his resume.

A pole for Hamilton this weekend would be his 69th in his career, and set the all-time mark, breaking a tie with Schumacher.

A win for Hamilton would see him become the first driver to win back-to-back races in the 13th round of the season and would, at worse, see him move into a tie with Vettel for the championship lead. Vettel leads Hamilton by seven points, 220-213, the same gap as the difference between first and second in a single race (25 to 18 points).

Alonso, twice a winner at Monza as he also won in 2007 with McLaren, is the only other active Italian Grand Prix winner in the field. Kimi Raikkonen has never won at Monza for Ferrari.

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

  • Practice 1: Friday, Sept. 1, 4 a.m.-5:30 a.m. ET (Story; Watch replay)
  • Practice 2: Friday, Sept. 1, 8 a.m.-9:30 a.m. ET (Story; Watch replay)
  • Practice 2 (Replay): Saturday, Sept. 2, 6:30 a.m.-8 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Practice 3: Saturday, Sept. 2, 5 a.m.-6 a.m. ET (Watch replay)
  • Qualifying: Saturday, Sept. 2, 8 a.m.-9:30 a.m. ET (Watch replay)
  • Qualifying (Replay): Sunday, Sept. 3, 1:30 a.m.-3 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Pre-Race: Sunday, Sept. 3, 7 a.m.-8 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race: Sunday, Sept. 3, 8 a.m.-10 a.m. ET (Full storyWatch replay)
  • Post-Race: Sunday, Sept. 3, 10 a.m.-10:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Formula 2: Sunday, Sept. 3, 6 a.m.-7 a.m. ET (Watch replay)

The next race is the Singapore Grand Prix, on September 17.

Teams load up on supersoft tires for Italian GP

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There’s almost no variety in team Pirelli tire selections for the Italian Grand Prix, with nearly all teams going with two sets of softs and 10 sets of supersofts for next week’s race. All teams have selected just one set of mediums.

The only variance comes with Mercedes, Force India and Haas going with three sets of softs and nine supersofts. The rest are all the same choice, two softs and 10 supersofts.

Monza comes a week after Spa this week.

Pirelli’s tire breakdown is below.

Red Bull, McLaren stack up on ultra-softs in Spa F1 tire picks

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Red Bull and McLaren have both taken full advantage of Pirelli’s decision to take the ultra-soft Formula 1 tire to Spa for the first time, stacking up on the compound for the Belgian Grand Prix.

Pirelli released each driver’s tire picks for the race on Thursday, having previously announced that it would be supplying teams with the soft, super-soft and ultra-soft compounds for the race in Belgium.

McLaren and Red Bull both opted to go aggressive, their drivers electing to take nine sets of the ultra-soft compound to Spa, skimping out on the soft tire as a result.

F1 title contenders Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton have gone for a more conservative approach, the latter opting for the joint-safest selection in the field with four sets of softs, three super-softs and six ultra-softs.

As usual, drivers will be required to complete Q3 on the ultra-soft tire and save one set of both the soft and ultra-softs for the race, using either tire once.