What to watch for: IndyCar at Sao Paulo

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Land of opportunity

Sao Paulo’s multiple passing zones mean that a major climb from the back of the grid can be pulled off. The changes to Turns 1 and 2 included the addition of 10 extra feet at Turn 2 for the drivers to work with, but the key opportunities remain the right-hander at Turn 5 and the Turn 11 hairpin that follows the longest straightaway of any street course in the world (nearly one mile long).

A different Samba

That aforementioned Turn 1-2 complex is known as the S of Samba, which also saw its curbs lowered as part of its modifications from track builder NZR Consulting. It’s a faster and wider section now, but as we’ve seen this weekend, it’s no less tricky as guys like Simon Pagenaud, Tristan Vautier and Tony Kanaan have all been involved in incidents at that part of the course. Could we see more of them there today?

Kanaan fights on

Despite dealing with torn ligaments in his right hand, Tony Kanaan has shown his trademark perseverance this weekend in Sao Paulo. Hitting a tire barrier at the S of Samba in Saturday practice didn’t keep him from cracking the Firestone Fast Six in qualifying later on. He’ll lead the Brazilian drivers into battle today from fourth starting position (Ana Beatriz starts 16th, Helio Castroneves from 18th), and there’s no doubt that a win from TK would set off a raucous celebration in the stands at Anhembi Park.

Is this Viso’s time?

The days of regarding Venezuelan driver E.J. Viso as an also-ran may be coming to an end. He has shown to be more competitive in his first campaign for Andretti Autosport, and on Saturday, he broke through in qualifying with a second-place result (his best ever start in the IZOD IndyCar Series). Things seem to be coming together for him and while he’s always been confident that he could succeed with good resources, those that didn’t have the same sentiments are starting to take notice now.

IZOD IndyCar Series – Sao Paulo Indy 300
Starting Grid

Row 1
1-Ryan Hunter-Reay
5-EJ Viso

Row 2
10-Dario Franchitti
11-Tony Kanaan

Row 3
27-James Hinchcliffe
9-Scott Dixon

Row 4
7 -Sebastien Bourdais
78-Simona de Silvestro

Row 5
19-Justin Wilson
25-Marco Andretti

Row 6
4-JR Hildebrand
14-Takuma Sato

Row 7
22-Oriol Servia
20-Ed Carpenter

Row 8
98-Alex Tagliani
18-Ana Beatriz

Row 9
83-Charlie Kimball
3-Helio Castroneves

Row 10
15-Graham Rahal
6-Sebastian Saavedra

Row 11
55-Tristan Vautier
12-Will Power

Row 12
77-Simon Pagenaud
16-James Jakes

Row 13
67-Josef Newgarden

Watch today’s Sao Paulo Indy 300 online and on your mobile device.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.