Hulkenberg’s lack of promotion emblematic of F1’s midfield struggle to advance

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It seems unfathomable that another Formula One silly season will come to pass without Nico Hulkenberg making the jump from a midfield squad to a perennial contender, but with Pastor Maldonado having been confirmed at Lotus on Friday, that appears to be the case.

Still, with three full seasons complete at three different teams –Hulkenberg has never raced for the same team in successive seasons – it does beg the question whether there is something abnormal at play.

Or, alternatively, Hulkenberg could just be the latest talented midfield driver who appears perpetually stuck there. It’s just that Ferrari, McLaren and Lotus would seem to have had their chance to secure his services in the last two years, and have gone different directions.

Hulkenberg was dumped by Williams after his rookie campaign in 2010, incidentally, for Maldonado. That led to a year’s testing with Force India before a race seat in 2012. Again, he outperformed Paul di Resta, and was thanked with a pink slip before switching laterally to Sauber for 2013. But his bridge may be burned there because of his wanting to investigate his options with other teams, and Lotus has now gone for Maldonado’s millions instead of talent. Hulkenberg has scored points in 28 of 58 career races (48.28 percent), while Maldonado is just 7/58 (12.07%).

The Williams and Lotus situations were understandable purely from a financial standpoint, but Hulkenberg’s being passed over by McLaren – twice – and Ferrari is very strange when you consider he’d be worth the long-term investment from both a points-scoring standpoint and a potential team leader standpoint.

McLaren went with Sergio Perez first, and now rookie Kevin Magnussen, for 2014. The Magnussen move makes sense because he’s a McLaren Junior driver and has excelled in his simulator work and first two F1 tests. If he progresses as quickly as the team expects, they’ll have made a wise choice. Additionally, McLaren didn’t have anywhere to place him among teams which they might share a technical partnership, so that opened the door at the iconic team itself.

Ferrari is more puzzling. No one doubt’s Kimi Raikkonen’s ability or his laconic, “don’t give a-you-know-what” attitude. What one would doubt is Ferrari investing in its future, and while Raikkonen is an excellent short-term prospect for the next two or three years, Ferrari may have missed its shot at bringing Hulkenberg in and, crucially, keeping him away from other squads that could hurt them in the future.

Ferrari though has rarely gone the “bold” route on the driver front. They’ve largely stuck by “their guys,” and it was a theory that cost them dearly when neither Luca Badoer nor Giancarlo Fisichella was able to get anything out of the car in substitute roles in 2009. Felipe Massa, for all the good he did for Ferrari, had dented confidence after the 2010 German Grand Prix fiasco and was never able to regain the consistent spark or form he showed in his first three seasons with the team.

The relative stagnation for the top teams in the driver market, though, has meant that we haven’t seen the same number of young talents rise from the midfield into a top seat. Red Bull, when given the opportunity, has promoted from within: Sebastian Vettel and now Daniel Ricciardo are Toro Rosso graduates making the leap to the “Mothership.” And Ricciardo jumped from HRT to Toro Rosso to begin with; that’s not exactly going from Sauber to Ferrari.

Other than Maldonado and Perez, you’d have to go back to Nico Rosberg, moving from Williams to Mercedes in 2010, as the last real example of a midfield driver moving up to an opportunity in a top squad. And even in that case, Williams has a historic pedigree, but isn’t what you would call a “tail-ender” of a team. Prior to that, you could argue Mark Webber going from Jaguar to Williams before 2005 was the last real “midfield to top” jump.

Consider Alonso started with Minardi in 2001. Raikkonen and Massa began with Sauber in 2001 and 2002, respectively. And that’s really it for the current grid as far as “midfield drivers advancing into top teams later in their careers.”

Lewis Hamilton? Nurtured by McLaren, now with Mercedes. Jenson Button never really raced with a “midfield team,” but did race with Benetton/Renault and BAR/Honda when they weren’t great. Romain Grosjean’s been with Lotus in two different guises. Meanwhile Red Bull has its factory of four drivers on the 2014 grid. But Hulkenberg? Di Resta? Adrian Sutil? Perez again? All resigned to the midfield, it seems.

Few would argue Hulkenberg, along with Williams’ Valtteri Bottas and Marussia’s Jules Bianchi are the “stars-in-waiting” of F1’s new generation of drivers that have already proven themselves in less than top machinery. But until they get their shot at the big teams, we can only imagine what they could do.

On the bright side, at least these drivers have made it into F1 without needing huge commercial budgets. Meanwhile drivers like Sam Bird, Robin Frijns, Luca Filippi, Davide Valsecchi, Fabio Leimer and Luiz Razia appear to have had their F1 chance pass them by.

Indy 500 on NBC: How to watch, start times, live stream, schedule for race’s 107th running

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Capping off one of the fastest months in memory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, here are the start times and information for the 107th Indy 500 on Sunday, May 28.

The world’s biggest race will be broadcast live on NBC and Peacock starting at 11 a.m. ET (green flag is 12:45 p.m. ET). A prerace show will be shown exclusively on Peacock starting at 9 a.m. ET.

Track owner Roger Penske and staff are expecting more than 300,00 on race day. The 233,000-seat grandstands will be near capacity with the largest crowd since the race’s 100th running sold out in 2016.

INDY 500 PRIMERImportant details and facts for watching on NBC Sports

STARTING LINEUPWhere the 33 drivers will take the green flag

After the starting lineup is set Sunday, May 21, cars will be on track twice more — a two-hour practice on Monday, May 22 and the Carb Day final practice from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on Friday, May 26.

Carb Day final practice is Friday, May 27 at 11 a.m.-1 p.m. ET on Peacock Premium. The annual Pit Stop Competition will follow at 2:30-4 p.m. and also on Peacock Premium.

Peacock also will carry the AES Indiana 500 Festival Parade from noon-2 p.m. ET Saturday and the Monday night victory celebration from 8-11 p.m. ET.

Here are the details and start times for the 107th Indy 500 (all times are ET):


TV info, Indy 500 start times, schedule

5 a.m.: Garage opens

6 a.m.: Gates open

6:30 a.m.: Tech inspection

8:15 a.m.: Cars pushed to pit lane

10:30 a.m.: Cars on the starting grid

11:47 a.m.: Driver introductions

12:38 p.m.: Command to start engines

12:45 p.m.: Green flag for the 105th Indy 500

How can I watch the Indy 500 on TV?

Click here for the full broadcast schedule on Peacock and NBC for May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The Indy 500 will be shown on NBC. Prerace coverage will begin exclusively on Peacock at 9 a.m. and then move to Peacock and NBC at 11 a.m. and run through 4 p.m., followed by a postrace show on Peacock Premium. All broadcasts also will be available via streaming on Peacock, the NBC Sports App and NBCSports.com.

Mike Tirico will be the host for NBC’s telecast alongside Danica Patrick and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Leigh Diffey will be the play-by-play announcer alongside analysts Townsend Bell and James Hinchcliffe. The pit reporters are Marty Snider, Kevin Lee, Dave Burns and Dillon Welch.

Universo will provide a Spanish-language telecast with Frederik Oldenburg and Sergio Rodriguez providing commentary on Universo and streaming on TelemundoDeportes.com and the Telemundo Deportes app. Veronica Rodriguez will provide on-site reports from IMS

The race also is streamed via the NBC Sports App and NBCSports.com.


Race information

DISTANCE: The race is 200 laps (500 miles) around Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 2.5-mile oval.

FORECAST: According to Wunderground.com, it’s expected to be 76 degrees with a 2 percent chance of rain at the green flag.

DEFENDING RACE WINNER: Marcus Ericsson, who is one of nine previous Indy 500 winners in the field.

TIRE ALLOTMENT: There are 32 sets of Firestones for use throughout the event (down from 34 last year).

QUALIFYING: The 33-car field was set May 20-21. Alex Palou qualified first for Chip Ganassi Racing’s third consecutive Indy 500 pole position.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the UPDATED 33-car grid in the 107th Indy 500.

RADIO BROADCASTS: Carb Day, 11 a.m. ET Friday; Sunday, 10 a.m. ET. Mark Jaynes is the chief announcer alongside analyst Davey Hamilton. Paul Page will provide commentary. Nick Yeoman (Turn 1), Michael Young (Turn 2), Jake Query (Turn 3) and Chris Denari (Turn 4) are the turn announcers with Ryan Myrehn, Alex Wollf, Rob Blackman and Scott Sander on pit road.

PRACTICE SUMMARY: Speed charts from when cars have been on the 2.5-mile oval (the May 16 opening day was rained out).

May 17: Practice l Combined

May 18: Practice l Combined

May 19: Practice l Combined

May 20: Practice l Combined

May 21: Practice l Combined

May 22: Practice l Combined

May 26: Practice l Combined


NBCSPORTS.COM COVERAGE

Links to IndyCar stories this month on Motorsports Talk:

Annual photo shows women having an impact on Indy 500 results

Roger Penske feeling hale at another Indy 500 as Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner

Honda needed 45 seconds to approve Graham Rahal racing a Chevy at Indy

A.J. Foyt takes refuge at Indy 500 while weathering grief of wife’s death

Gordon Johncock: The most unassuming Indy 500 legend

Honda needed 45 seconds to approve Graham Rahal racing a Chevy

Alex Palou on his Indy 500 pole, multitasking at 224 mph and a Chip Ganassi surprise

Marcus Ericsson, engineer Brad Goldberg have ties that run very deep

Graham Rahal will replace injured Stefan Wilson in the Indy 500

Family nightmare repeated: Graham Rahal bumped from Indy 500 by teammate

Arrow McLaren, Ganassi strong; Rahal cars struggle on opening day of qualifying

What drivers are saying about Indy 500 qualifying

Remembering the era of Indy 500 qualifying engines increasing speed, danger

Parnelli Jones, A.J. Foyt share 60th anniversary of an important moment

NASCAR champion Kyle Larson visits Indy 500 practice in preparation for 2024

“Unleashing The Dragon” uncorks big emotions for Marcus Ericsson and team

Awaiting Ganassi offer, Marcus Ericsson draws interest from other teams

Kyle Larson visits Indy 500 practice ahead of attempting the 2024 race

Indy 500 qualifying: ‘Four laps, 10 miles, frickin’ fast’

Graham Rahal mulling future with the team his father founded

Romain Grosjean knocking on the door of his first IndyCar victory

After family detour, Ryan Hunter-Reay back on the road to the Indy 500

Christian Lundgaard, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing enjoy best race of season

Jimmie Johnson unsure of returning to the Indy 500


BETTING PREVIEW

Click here to read NBC Sports Edge’s guide to contenders and darkhorses, including a full breakdown of past winners, veterans and rookies in the 107th Indianapolis 500, as well as the best bets for the race.


NBC SPORTS’ TOP 10 INDY 500s

No. 10: A.J. Foyt becomes a three-time winner in 1967 as Parnelli Jones’ dominant Granatelli turbine car breaks

No. 9: Sam Hornish Jr. beats Marco Andretti in 2006 on the race’s first last-lap pass

No. 8: Al Unser Jr. edges Scott Goodyear in 1992 for closest finish in the race’s history

No. 7: Rick Mears becomes a four-time winner of the race with a thrilling pass in 1991

No. 6: Louis Meyer becomes the first three-time winner and starts milk tradition

No. 5: Dan Wheldon wins second Indy 500 after J.R. Hildebrand crashes on last lap

No. 4: A.J. Foyt becomes the first four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500

No. 3: Helio Castroneves “reopens America” with his fourth Indy 500 victory