WATCH LIVE: Italian GP Race Day; will Mercedes keep its cool?

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After Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg locked out the front row of the grid during qualifying yesterday, the stage is set for a thrilling Italian Grand Prix this afternoon.

As expected, Mercedes dominated at the high-speed Autodromo Nazionale Monza, but it was Hamilton who came out on top to secure his first pole position since the Spanish Grand Prix back in May.

However, with his teammate and championship rival Rosberg close by, and following their collision at the race in Belgium two weeks ago, Hamilton knows that winning today is crucial to keeping him in the title hunt.

You can watch the Italian Grand Prix live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 7.30am ET today. CLICK HERE to watch via live stream.

The incident at Spa was a dark moment for Mercedes, and the fall-out in the last two weeks has dominated the media. All parties have apologized and insist that we will not see a repeat at turn one today, but in the heat of a championship battle, it could all boil over very quickly at Monza.

After locking out the second row of the grid, Williams is hoping to pick up a big haul of points that could elevate the team to third place in the constructors’ championship. Ferrari, who currently occupies that position, will be lucky to finish inside the top five given the pace of the Mercedes-powered cars at Monza.

Also hoping to get in the mix for a podium finish are McLaren, whose cars start fifth and sixth, and Red Bull, although the world champions may struggle after a disappointing qualifying performance on Saturday.

The heat is on at Monza, but can Mercedes keep its cool on Sunday afternoon?

You can watch the Italian Grand Prix live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 7.30am ET. CLICK HERE to watch via live stream.

April 5 in Motorsports History: Alex Zanardi’s amazing Long Beach rally

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Alex Zanardi entered the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 5, 1998 as the race’s defending champion and the series’ defending champion.

But the Italian didn’t seem a serious contender for much of the 105-lap event. Zanardi started 11th position and lost a lap early when he was involved in a multicar spin in the hairpin.

Alex Zanardi celebrates after winning the 1998 Grand Prix of Long Beach. Photo: Getty Images

But the race was still young, and despite emerging from the incident in 18th place, Zanardi slowly progressed through the field while battling radio problems that made communication difficult with his team.

With five laps remaining, Zanardi passed Dario Franchitti on the backstretch for second place and then focused in on leader Bryan Herta.

With two laps remaining, Zanardi made his move, making a daring pass on the inside of Herta in the Queen’s Hairpin (which no longer exists as the track layout was changed the following year).

The move was reminiscent of Zanardi’s famous last-lap move on the inside of Laguna Seca’s famed Corkscrew in 1996, which deprived Herta of his first CART victory.

Franchitti passed Herta as well, and Zanardi went on to clinch his first victory of the season.

“On a day when everything went wrong, we came back and won,” Zanardi said following the race. “I can’t explain it. It wasn’t until I saw Bryan ahead of me that I ever thought I had a shot at winning. It was amazing. I have no words to describe it.”

Following Long Beach, Zanadri won six more times in 1998 en route to his second and final CART championship.

Also on this date:

1992: Bobby Rahal led from start to finish to win the Valvoline 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. The win was the first of four victories for Rahal during his championship season.

2009: Ryan Briscoe won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first of three victories for the Aussie in 2009. The race was also the first IndyCar Series on Versus, which was rebranded as NBC Sports Network in 2012.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994