sebastian vettel

F1 Grand Prix of Monaco
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F1’s crown jewel, Monaco GP, comes to NBC next week

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For the fifth consecutive year, NBC will air the Monaco Grand Prix, the crown jewel of the Formula 1 schedule as a part of the NBC Sports Group’s F1 coverage.

The race itself airs on NBC, Sunday, May 28, from 7:30 to 8 a.m. for pre-race coverage, before race coverage comes from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Additional pre-race coverage is from 7 to 7:30 a.m. on NBCSN, and post-race coverage is then from 10 to 10:30 a.m. on NBCSN.

Qualifying is on Saturday at 8 a.m. ET on NBCSN, and free practice two is Thursday – not Friday – also at 8 a.m. ET on NBCSN.

It’s been a fascinating start to the season, as Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton have two wins apiece in the first five races. Vettel only has a six-point lead on Hamilton (104-98) in the championship, after Hamilton captured a decisive win last weekend in the Spanish Grand Prix.

At Monaco, Hamilton has two wins (2008, 2016) and Vettel has one (2011) – and on all three instances, their Monaco win came in a year where they won the World Championship.

Beyond these two, Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo would be in search of their first Monaco wins for Mercedes and Red Bull, respectively. Bottas steps into a seat where Nico Rosberg won Monaco three years in a row from 2013 to 2015, while Ricciardo looks to atone from a frustrating near miss last year, when he could have won had it not been for a bad pit stop, and finished a hard-luck second.

Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen are also looking for bounce back weekends, after the two got taken out in a first lap incident with Bottas last time out at Spain. Raikkonen has won Monaco once before (2005 with McLaren) while Verstappen has crashed out of Monaco on both occasions he’s been here thus far.

One other driver to watch, and a leading light of the midfield, is Force India’s Sergio Perez. The Mexican driver has scored 15 consecutive points finishes, leading the field by a significant margin, and is fresh off a fourth place at Spain. He finished third in Monaco last year.

Jenson Button also makes a one-race comeback to Formula 1, filling in for Fernando Alonso at McLaren, as Alonso races at the 101st Indianapolis 500.

As noted above, all sessions will be broadcast on NBC, NBCSN or via the NBC Sports App. Leigh Diffey, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett are on the call with Will Buxton reporting from the pits and paddock.

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

  • Practice 1: Thursday, May 25, 4 a.m.-5:30 a.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Practice 2: Thursday, May 25, 8 a.m.-9:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Practice 2 (Replay): Saturday, May 27, 6:30 a.m.-8 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Practice 3: Saturday, May 27, 5 a.m.-6 a.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Qualifying: Saturday, May 27, 8 a.m.-9:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Qualifying (Replay): Sunday, May 28, 1 a.m.-2:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Pre-Race 1: Sunday, May 28, 7 a.m.-7:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN; Stream link)
  • Pre-Race 2: Sunday, May 28, 7:30 a.m.-8 a.m. ET (NBC; Stream link)
  • Race: Sunday, May 28, 8 a.m.-10 a.m. ET (NBC; Stream link)
  • Post-Race, Sunday, May 28, 10 a.m.-10:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN; Stream link)
  • Race (Replay): Sunday, May 28, 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race (Replay); Sunday, May 28, 10 p.m.-12 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race (Replay): Monday, May 29, 3 p.m.-5 p.m. ET (NBCSN)

The next race is the Canadian Grand Prix, on June 11.

Vettel still confident despite Hamilton’s win at Spanish GP

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Sebastian Vettel lost the battle, not the Formula One title.

Despite a great start in individual duels with Mercedes, Ferrari’s top driver finished Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix exactly where he started: in second place behind Lewis Hamilton.

Vettel can take heart, however, from the fact that the difference between the winner and runner-up came down to a choice of team strategy that went Mercedes’ way. Hamilton finished the race on a faster set of tires than Vettel, passing the German on Lap 43 of 66 and conserving his tires as he sped away to victory.

“I think we can be very happy, but today we’re not entirely happy because the win was there,” Vettel said. “The car was quick enough but the way the race happened, it wasn’t meant to be. The most important thing is that we were there. Once again fighting, hanging in there, not much missing at the end.”

Vettel remained in the series lead, now reduced to six points from 13 over Hamilton, with his third second-place finish to go with two wins in five races.

Equally as important, Ferrari showed that the upgrades brought by both title contenders to Spain canceled one another out.

Vettel’s Ferrari was a mere 0.051 seconds slower than Hamilton in Saturday’s qualifying. He finished the race less than four second behind Hamilton, and Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo was nowhere close finishing a distant third.

Vettel also won three of the four jousts he had with Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas on the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

His excellent jump from the start allowed him to pass Hamilton at the first turn.

Next, Vettel engaged Bottas in an exhilarating lap-long chase before finally getting past the Finn on the third try, even though the effort slowed down Vettel and let Hamilton shave off valuable seconds from behind.

“I was really happy, but then I looked down and (saw) I’d lost an awful lot of time, so I wasn’t that happy because the real fight was with Lewis,” Vettel said. “We lost four seconds.”

Those seconds meant that when Vettel emerged from a second pit stop he was neck-and-neck with a hard-charging Hamilton. But Vettel defended his inside position on a curve, sending Hamilton off as they came close to touching.

Vettel had kept his lead, but Hamilton waited for a straightaway to blow past him on his faster tires and never looked back.

Vettel said the race was there for the taking.

“The car is good, the team is in great form,” he said. “We’re very happy when we have the chance to race Mercedes. They have been proving over and over in the last few years that they are the team to beat. We are giving them, so far, a good run for their money.”

Vettel’s and Hamilton’s teammates both abandoned the race. Bottas bumped Kimi Raikkonen on the first turn, sending his Ferrari into Max Verstappen’s Red Bull, damaging both cars’ front suspension. Bottas was later forced to stop his Mercedes when it started spouting smoke midway through the race.

Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene said the knock by Bottas that cost Raikkonen an early exit was just part of F1.

“Shame for the end result, but we leave Spain knowing that we can count on a car that is solid and very quick,” Arrivabene said. “The championship is still a long way and we are already focusing on the next race at Monaco.”

After spending three years battling retired teammate Nico Rosberg for the title, Hamilton said he was enjoying taking the fight outside Mercedes’ garage.

“To have that close battle with him, with a four-time champ, is awesome,” Hamilton, himself a three-time champion, said about Vettel. “I think it was the rawest fight I can remember having for some real time, which I loved. This is why I race and this is what got me into racing in the beginning.”

Hamilton will get another chance to tangle with Vettel in two weeks at the Monaco GP.

Hamilton, Vettel hail first ’17 wheel-to-wheel battle at Spain (VIDEO)

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Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel exchanged mutual respect and admiration for each other following their gripping scrap in today’s Spanish Grand Prix, as Hamilton took his second win of the season for Mercedes to match Vettel’s total at Ferrari.

Vettel led away from the start while Hamilton was in behind him. But the two opted for different strategies for when they’d run their one mandatory set of Pirelli’s harder compound, the mediums, during the race.

Hamilton ran them in a middle stint while Vettel ran his for his final stint, opting to run longer to the finish in hopes Hamilton’s softs would fall off and bring him back. Vettel pitted first and Hamilton pitted later in the first stint, which shifted the race a bit.

Vettel lost time on two occasions this race. He was stuck behind Valtteri Bottas, who ran longer on the first stint by more than 10 laps compared to when Vettel first pitted, and while he made it past the Finn it allowed Hamilton to close.

Then when he opted to pit for the mediums, as it came just at the conclusion of the race’s lone Virtual Safety Car, he emerged right alongside Hamilton – which set up their scrap over the next several laps before Hamilton eventually made the pass for the win.

Hamilton and Vettel’s one side-by-side moment into Turns 1 and 2 saw Hamilton go sideways onto the rumble strips, but while the incident was noted by the race stewards, it was not investigated. Hamilton made it past Vettel for the lead on Lap 44 of 66 and that was all she wrote for the race.

Controversy did not reign between these two on the podium, as they hailed their first proper wheel-to-wheel fight this year.

“The team did an incredible job today. That’s how racing should be. That’s as close as it should be, as Sebastian was incredibly close,” Hamilton said. “It was so much fun. The start, I don’t know exactly what’s gone wrong. It wasn’t good enough.

“(On the contact) I think in heat of moment it’s hard to view. I felt I ran out of road, but that’s how racing should be.”

Vettel added, “I was pushing so much. I had a really good start at the beginning. I put the clutch in. We managed to stay ahead in a nice rhythm, but Lewis stayed out longer on the strategy. I knew in the end it’d be crucial.

“I was a bit surprised it was so close. I tried to brake as late as possible. Not sure if we touched but I managed to stay ahead! A car gave me a tow. But when I was alone, he blew past. We tried to stay in the race. Well done to him.”

Vettel explained why Ferrari opted not to go for what was termed “Plan C” – a potential third stop to switch onto another set of softs.

“We had a huge gap to Daniel (Ricciardo), so we could have done anything really,” he said. “Obviously there was a big conversation trying to do something.

“We wondered about Lewis’ tires. But we didn’t have any problems as the track had a lot of rubber at the end, so we didn’t do it.”

Vettel now leads Hamilton by six points, 104-98, after this result.

Hamilton defeats Vettel in thrilling Spanish GP strategic scrap

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The battle between Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel reached a fever pitch in today’s Spanish Grand Prix, as a mix of differing tire strategies, contact and hard work saw Hamilton emerge with his second win of the 2017 Formula 1 season after a thrilling battle.

With Vettel in second, Hamilton has now closed what was a 13-point gap entering the race (86-73) to just six (104-98) with a crucial victory heading to the Monaco Grand Prix later this month.

Behind the top two, Daniel Ricciardo scored his first podium of the season for Red Bull, albeit quite a ways behind, with Sahara Force India having a banner day in fourth and fifth with Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, who continue their points scoring streaks.

Both of the top two drivers turned in star drives, but the midfield battle was fascinating to monitor as some of the heavy hitters fell out of contention early.

On the start, Vettel got the launch passed Hamilton, but last year’s first and second place finishers, Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen, were done on the first lap.

Contact between the two of them – plus Valtteri Bottas – saw the first two with significant damage to their wheels and suspension and out of the race, and thus unable to repeat their encore performance of a year ago.

Bottas got a flying start and got to the inside of Raikkonen, who was sandwiched in the middle and sustained left front damage. Verstappen, on the outside, collided with Raikkonen and sustained right front damage while Bottas emerged unscathed.

A young Ferrari fan was sad and captured on camera, and Raikkonen looked stranded before commencing the walk back to the paddock, although that would later have a happy ending.

In the chaos, Fernando Alonso also ran wide after starting seventh at the exit of Turn 2 and Felipe Massa also had smoke emanating from his Williams, as the two former Ferrari teammates collided on exit, with Massa suffering damage.

Vettel had a two-plus second lead over Hamilton at the end of the first lap with Bottas third, Ricciardo fourth and the pair of Force Indias up to fifth and sixth as Perez and Ocon capitalized for position. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault), Kevin Magnussen (Haas), Carlos Sainz Jr. (Toro Rosso) and Romain Grosjean (Haas) moved into the top 10 with Alonso dropping down to 11th, and Pascal Wehrlein up to 12th in the first Sauber.

Both first lap incidents were reviewed by the stewards with no further action taken. Bottas’ role in the three-wide incident was also later reviewed, also with no further action taken.

With all drivers except Jolyon Palmer, Daniil Kvyat and Stoffel Vandoorne starting on Pirelli’s soft tires – these three started on mediums – tire management the rest of the way was going to be key to success, and came down to pit stops as to whether Hamilton could complete the undercut to overcome Vettel’s sustained two-plus second lead.

But it was Vettel that blinked first for Ferrari, pitting on Lap 14 and continuing on a second set of softs, which set him up for a three-stop strategy. That promoted Hamilton to the lead over Bottas but Vettel got Ricciardo for third on Lap 16, and on a fresher set of tires could begin his charge back from 20-plus seconds back.

Around the same time, a cracking scrap between Magnussen and Sainz on track continued elsewhere as they nearly collided – twice – while leaving the pit lane. That incident was placed under review by the stewards.

Hamilton finally responded on Lap 22, but switched onto mediums, which meant he was good to go to the regulations but would be on the slower tires while Vettel could continue to run further on the softs. Hamilton emerged about eight seconds behind Vettel at this time, while Bottas moved into the lead having not yet stopped.

Bottas was then left to defend against Vettel, who needed to get past the Finn. Bottas locked up his tires on Lap 24 which nearly left an opening for Vettel, but the German was unable to get through… briefly.

Vettel finally made it past Bottas, almost on the grass, into Turn 1 for the lead on Lap 26. But he’d lost a fair bit of time behind Bottas in the process, which allowed Hamilton to close up on the medium tires. Hamilton passed Bottas for second place shortly after Vettel got Bottas.

Bottas finally pitted and switched onto mediums himself, so he and Hamilton were on the same tires at the same time. A bit further back, behind the Force Indias in fifth and sixth, Sauber got Pascal Wehrlein up to seventh as ace strategist Ruth Buscombe looked to run Wehrlein on a one-stop strategy.

At the halfway mark of Lap 33, Vettel led Hamilton by six-plus seconds with Bottas 20-plus seconds back in third, Ricciardo, the two Force Indias and Ocon.

The race’s complexion changed following a Virtual Safety Car period a lap later as Vandoorne’s tough rookie season continued, as he contacted Massa’s Williams going into Turn 1.

Hamilton and Vettel’s battle raged after their pit stops. Hamilton went from mediums to softs on Lap 37 but Vettel countered a lap later with a move the other way from softs to mediums.

The two collided at Turns 1 and 2, with Hamilton to Vettel’s outside, and going off track as a result. Vettel continued in the lead but on the slower tires with Hamilton then stuck in behind.

On Lap 39, Bottas’ day ended with smoke billowing from the rear of his Mercedes, which meant each of the top two teams only had one car left in the fight. It was a fiery exit for him and the first retirement of his career with Mercedes.

By Lap 44, Hamilton made the pass for the lead on Vettel into Turn 1, going to the outside of Vettel into the corner and then working to streak away.

Wehrlein’s dream drive to seventh had him just ahead of Sainz, Magnussen and Kvyat on Lap 47 and poised for big points, but the Sauber driver was later issued a five-second time penalty for not adhering to the pit entry bollard correctly. It then meant he’d need to turn it on for the final 20 laps to ensure he could deliver enough of a gap to get more points.

The race’s final act turned to whether either Vettel or Hamilton would make another pit stop for fresher tires, but the window passed when Vettel would opt not to pit for new softs.

As the laps ticked closer to the conclusion, Hamilton’s softs started to fade while Vettel was able to close a bit more on the mediums.

One final act turned with just two laps to go. Magnussen was ninth and poised for his second points finish of the year, but lost it owing to a late puncture. It was a heartbreaking end to a thrilling race from his cockpit. He pitted for fresh tires, and in consolation, Grosjean moved up to 10th place as a result.

Hamilton was able to hold on for the victory from Vettel, with Ricciardo in third quite a ways back. The Force India twins were next to complete the top five.

On the road, Hulkenberg, Wehrlein, Sainz, Kvyat and Grosjean completed the top 10. Wehrlein dropped back one position to eighth as a result of that five-second time penalty.

Magnussen dropped behind Marcus Ericsson and Alonso, who at least finished but dropped back five spots from his starting position, and Massa fell to an unlucky 14th place. Jolyon Palmer and Lance Stroll completed the runners.

Bottas, Vandoorne, Verstappen and Raikkonen were the four retirements.

Provisional results are below.

What to watch for: Spanish Grand Prix (NBCSN, NBC Sports app from 7am ET)

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With the four flyaway races over to kick off the 2017 Formula 1 season, today’s Spanish Grand Prix offers up more questions than answers ahead of the start of the European season in a year when there hasn’t been a standard form book.

Consider Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari have looked the smartest of the field from a strategy standpoint, Lewis Hamilton is mildly on the back foot for Mercedes but still fast as ever, and Valtteri Bottas has added a different dimension to Mercedes’ charge after his opening four races with his new team.

As the three winners in four races, this year’s season already has as many winners as there was in all of 2014 and 2015, and only one shy of last year’s total of four.

And with passing notoriously difficult at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, the start is key as ever to success – or in last year’s case, the few turns after the first corner.

All that makes for some intriguing questions heading into today’s race.

You can watch the Spanish Grand Prix live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday. CLICK HERE to watch via live stream.

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

2017 Spanish Grand Prix – What to watch for

Razor thin margin between Mercedes and Ferrari

It took a perfect lap from Lewis Hamilton to edge Sebastian Vettel by just 0.051 of a second to score the pole position for today’s race. Even after the first round of upgrades has come into play this weekend, it still seems as though the battle between Mercedes and Ferrari is super tight.

Passing is difficult but seeing which of these two gets off the line best today may be the ultimate key to success. And perhaps in a bizarre way, Valtteri Bottas is positioned well from third, as he’ll be starting on the clean line while Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen both set sail from the dirty side of the road.

A 2016 Mercedes in Spain repeat? It’s hard to foresee…

Last year’s race was turned on its head after Hamilton and then-teammate Nico Rosberg came together after the opening series of curves, in what was perhaps the most dramatic moment of the 2016 season.

Hamilton and Bottas don’t yet have the built-in tension and animosity as teammates that Hamilton and Rosberg had, and quite honestly, it’s been their combined consistency that sees them enter this race just one point clear of Ferrari in the Constructor’s Championship (136-135).

Finnish driver Bottas has been impressive to start the year but would be on thin ice – pun entirely intended – if he was to disrupt both his own and worse, his teammate’s cause if there was to be an encore collision this go ’round.

A lonely race looming once again for the Bulls

Max Verstappen probably had little idea his life would change when he woke up race day this race last year, as he benefitted the most from the Rosberg/Hamilton collision and then swept to his first career win in his debut at Red Bull Racing. And he held off Raikkonen the rest of the race to do it, with Vettel beating his old teammate Daniel Ricciardo to third.

However while Red Bull’s within 0.3 of Raikkonen on the grid, that owes to Verstappen perhaps overachieving despite a power deficit while Raikkonen is possibly failing to extract the maximum of the car’s potential. That portends another likely lonely race for Verstappen and Ricciardo this race, with fifth and sixth the best realistic results on paper if the four in front of them continue as-is and Red Bull keeps its place clear of the midfield. Which, speaking of…

The massively tight midfield battle rolls on

It took the “I swear he’s not actually a miracle worker, but he’s rather close” efforts of Fernando Alonso to turn in arguably the best seventh place qualifying effort in recent memory for McLaren Honda, on his home soil no less, and only a day after his car was leaking oil and cost him first practice.

Alonso’s heroics aside, the midfield battle is again set to rock today beyond the top six. Reliability will tell the tale if McLaren can finally get on the scoreboard in 2017. But with Alonso in seventh, then the best Force India in eighth, Williams in ninth, Haas in 11th, Toro Rosso in 12th and Renault in 13th, you’ve got six teams in the next seven positions. Only Sauber is missing from that fray from there.

Force India has made the most of its races thus far this year, both Sergio Perez on a 14-race scoring streak and Esteban Ocon on a four-race one to start his Force India career exceeding expectations and banking a combined eight points finishes in as many starts this season. That leaves them with 31 points and well positioned ahead of the other teams mentioned, none of whom has more than 18 points.

Who finishes where in the seventh-to-10th range will be important to watch.

And those two Spaniards set for their home Grand Prix

Ricciardo (Australia) and Daniil Kvyat (Russia) have had their home Grands Prix already this year and neither has gone well. Ricciardo endured a nightmare in Melbourne while Kvyat struggled to a scoreless 12th place in Sochi.

Will the same scoreless fate hit Alonso and Carlos Sainz Jr. today? Alonso starts seventh and Sainz in 12th.

Alonso has the faintest of expectations to begin with. Both McLarens have not started a race together since China more than a month ago, as first Stoffel Vandoorne (Bahrain) and Alonso (Russia) have suffered the pain of pre-race mechanical woes.

Sainz, the perpetual overachiever, must look to continue that form and bank a fourth points finish in five races this year. That seems a more realistic prospect than does Alonso finishing, much less finishing in the points.

But given the underdog nature of McLaren Honda F1, circa 2017, an Alonso points finish on home soil would be cause for a Mark Webber-at-Minardi-in-Melbourne P5 “bend the podium” celebration.

Alonso could always sleep off the celebratory activities on the flight to Indianapolis…

Different tire selection day

Usually we’re writing about Pirelli’s purple ultrasoft and red supersoft compounds, but the abrasive Barcelona circuit is a known tire shredder. It means the yellow soft compound is the softest on offer this weekend, with the white medium compound and orange hard compound available as the two harder compounds.

2017 Spanish Grand Prix – Starting Grid

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

You can watch the Spanish Grand Prix live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday. CLICK HERE to watch via live stream.