What To Watch For: Russian GP (NBCSN, Live Extra from 6:30am ET)

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With the end of the 2015 Formula 1 season now in sight, today’s Russian Grand Prix has the potential to be one of the most important races in the championship battle so far.

Nico Rosberg may trail Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton by 48 points at the top of the drivers’ standings, but the German enjoyed the edge in qualifying on Saturday as he claimed pole position by three-tenths of a second.

Hamilton will start alongside Rosberg on the front row of the grid, and knows that a win in Russia will give him the chance to wrap up a third world title next time out in the United States Grand Prix.

For now though, here’s what to watch for in today’s Russian Grand Prix.

What To Watch For – 2015 Russian Grand Prix

Hamilton, Rosberg ready for first lap drag race

The Sochi Autodrom is hardly the most inspiring circuit on the F1 calendar, but the long run from the start line to the first braking point at turn two will create a great drag race on the opening lap of the race.

Rosberg ruined his race by trying to pass Hamilton at turn two last year, and both drivers will have studied the 2014 footage to find areas for improvement. It will be intriguing to see how things play out on the first lap between our championship protagonists.

Can Vettel keep Mercedes in sight?

Sebastian Vettel was highly frustrated to have only qualified fourth on Saturday, but remains very confident for today’s race, believing that Ferrari will be able to take a step towards Mercedes compared to qualifying.

Although victory is very unlikely given Mercedes’ dominance in qualifying, Vettel will be doing all he can to keep the Silver Arrows in sight and – perhaps as a first step – beat Williams’ Valtteri Bottas to complete the podium.

Sainz declared fit to race

Remarkably, Carlos Sainz Jr. is set to start today’s Russian Grand Prix despite suffering a terrifying crash during practice on Saturday. The Spaniard pitched under the TecPro barriers, prompting concern for the medical crews that were sent to rescue him.

Sainz was taken to hospital but was unharmed and eventually discharged last night. After passing this morning’s FIA medical check, the Toro Rosso driver will line-up on the grid last – but simply making the start is a shown of great resolve from the youngster.

A happy 250th for Alonso?

Fernando Alonso is celebrating his 250th grand prix this weekend, but not in the fashion he may have liked to. For a driver widely regarded as being one of F1’s all-time greats, starting P19 thanks to a 35-place grid penalty and following a Q1 exit is hardly the fanfare desired.

Alas, Alonso will continue to fight as he has done throughout his racing career, and if the pace of teammate Jenson Button is anything to go by, Alonso could yet fight his way up towards the fringes of the top ten, and potentially into the points.

Mercedes looks to wrap up constructors’ championship

At no point this year has it ever been in doubt, but Mercedes may finally clinch its second F1 constructors’ championship today, wrapping it up in Sochi for the second year in succession.

To be crowned champion, Mercedes simply has to outscore Ferrari by three points in today’s race. Team boss Toto Wolff admitted on Saturday that the team does have special t-shirts to celebrate stashed away just in case they are needed, but this confidence should not be mocked. Mercedes has been a tour de force in F1 over the past two years, and such success is richly deserved.

Starting Grid for the 2015 Russian Grand Prix

1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes
2. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
3. Valtteri Bottas Williams
4. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari
5. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
6. Nico Hulkenberg Force India
7. Sergio Perez Force India
8. Romain Grosjean Lotus
9. Max Verstappen Toro Rosso
10. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
11. Daniil Kvyat Red Bull
12. Felipe Nasr Sauber
13. Jenson Button McLaren
14. Pastor Maldonado Lotus
15. Felipe Massa Williams
16. Marcus Ericsson Sauber
17. Will Stevens Manor
18. Roberto Merhi Manor
19. Fernando Alonso McLaren
20. Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso

The Russian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 6:30am ET on Sunday.

Supercross: Husqvarna’s Jalek Swoll and Malcolm Stewart out with injury

Swoll Stewart injury
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Jalek Swoll and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna teammate Malcolm Stewart sustained injury in separate crashes late last week. Stewart missed Anaheim 2 and Swoll will not mount up for the 250 East season opener in Houston on February 4.

“Spent all of yesterday in the ER and today getting surgery so haven’t been able to make an update post,” Swoll posted on Instagram. “Spiral fractured my humorous yesterday and was lucky enough to get into surgery today. Absolutely heartbroken that I couldn’t show all the hard work me, [Mike Brown], [Aldon Baker], and [Joel Perez] were working on truly felt like this year was going to a big one with massive improvements we made but I guess it just wasn’t my time.”

The team announced on Instagram that Swoll underwent successful surgery to repair a broken bone in his arm, sustained in a practice crash on Friday. After missing the division opener, no further timeline has been given for his return.

Swoll made eight starts in the 250 West division last season with a best finish of fifth. In 2021, he scored his first SuperMotocross win in the outdoor Pro Motocross season at High Point Raceway in Mount Morris, Pennsylvania.

Stewart missed Anaheim 2 due to a practice injury. Likewise, the team did not announce a timetable for Stewart’s return.

He showed a lot of speed in the first two rounds before accidents eliminated him from contention in both rounds. He finished 16th at Anaheim 1 and 15th in San Diego, putting him in a points’ deficit that was already going to be difficult to overcome.

Stewart entered the 2023 season with a ton of confidence and believed all he needed was to stack his chips the right way to get this year’s championship.

Husqvarna is now represented by RJ Hampshire in the 250 West division and Christian Craig in 450s.

Hampshire had a rough weekend in Anaheim 2 and finished 11th in the overall standings after scoring a last place result in Race 2 with a bike sidelined by crash damage and a 13th in Race 3 after another fall.

Craig has not yet scored a top-10 on his 450 with a best of 11th at San Diego and Anaheim 2.

The news of these two injuries comes on the heels of the Pro Circuit Kawasaki team losing three of their four 250 riders.

Last week, Pro Circuit Kawasaki announced Seth Hammaker would miss the season opener with a wrist injury. Almost immediately, it was announced Jo Shimoda would also miss the 250 East opener with a shoulder injury.

Chris Blose will serve as a replacement rider in the 250 East division with Carson Mumford scheduled to replace the injured Austin Forkner in the West.