What To Watch For: Mexican Grand Prix (NBC, Live Extra from 1:30pm)

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Lewis Hamilton may have sewn up his third Formula 1 world championship in Austin last weekend, but there is still plenty to play for in the final three races of the 2015 season – starting with the Mexican Grand Prix on Sunday (live on NBC from 1:30pm ET).

Much of the attention in the lead up to Sunday’s race in Mexico City has been on the renewed tensions between Hamilton and Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, with the latter being left frustrated by the Briton’s move at the start of the United States GP.

After taking pole on Saturday, Rosberg said that he is preparing himself for an exciting battle with Hamilton on the run down to the first corner, setting the stage for a great fight between the Mercedes drivers.

Today’s Mexican Grand Prix is the first since 1992, and has been warmly received by the locals who packed out the grandstands on Friday and Saturday, amassing a combined attendance of almost 200,000 – and that’s before race day.

Here’s what to watch for in today’s Mexican Grand Prix, live on NBC and Live Extra from 1:30pm ET on Sunday.

2015 Mexican Grand Prix – What To Watch For

Lewis, Nico and turn one

Hamilton’s move at the start of last weekend’s race in Austin was certainly aggressive, but most have deemed it to be fair. Rosberg does not fall into the “most” category though, and has been fired up all weekend long as a result.

He insisted that his charge to pole on Saturday was not fuelled by anger, but Rosberg knows that another defeat to Hamilton here would hurt his reputation further. Having not won a race since the end of June and now facing a challenge to beat Sebastian Vettel to P2 in the championship, Rosberg desperately needs a win here.

All eyes will be on their battle down to turn one and whether there’s a repeat of Austin. Last time Rosberg was this angry, they clashed at Spa. Is a repeat on the cards?

Bunching the field

The lack of tire data and slippery surface at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez has made for an interesting weekend thus far, with a number of drivers being caught out by the lack of grip. Should any of the forecast rain arrive on Sunday, the situation will only worsen and leave most of the teams working their strategies on the fly.

As with most new races, Pirelli expects the Mexican Grand Prix to be a one-stopper, but it will be interesting to see if any of the teams elect to try a two-stop strategy.

The new circuit has also caused a bunching of the field at the front. Although Mercedes may remain the pace-setters, Ferrari looms large behind, and with Red Bull, Williams and Force India also running well, the battle in the points promises to be a fierce one.

Perez seeks home success

Sergio Perez will fulfil a life-long dream today by racing in the Mexican Grand Prix – a feat he previously thought impossible due to the absence of the race in F1. The fans who packed the rafters went crazy for Checo even in practice on Friday and Saturday; the atmosphere will be booming again in the race.

Perez will start ninth after Force India mistimed its Q3 run on Saturday, but his race pace has been good so far this weekend, putting him in the running for a strong result that would send the partisan crowd into raptures.

Rain and chaos?

In what has become a recurring story in 2015, both McLarens will once again start from the back row of the grid thanks to power unit penalties. Fernando Alonso said after qualifying that he wanted “rain and chaos” on Sunday, hoping for a repeat of the US GP where he should have picked up some points for his efforts.

Rain could strike the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez during today’s race, and should it do so, a race similar to Austin may be on the cards – and we all know how great that was.

2015 Mexican Grand Prix – Starting Grid

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

* grid penalty

The Mexican Grand Prix is live on NBC and Live Extra from 1:30pm ET on Sunday.

Strong rebounds for Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi amid some disappointments in the Indy 500


INDIANAPOLIS – Alex Palou had not turned a wheel wrong the entire Month of May at the Indy 500 until Rinus VeeKay turned a wheel into the Chip Ganassi Racing pole-sitter leaving pit road on Lap 94.

“There is nothing I could have done there,” Palou told NBC Sports. “It’s OK, when it is my fault or the team’s fault because everybody makes mistakes. But when there is nothing, you could have done differently there, it feels bad and feels bad for the team.”

Marcus Ericsson was a master at utilizing the “Tail of the Dragon” move that breaks the draft of the car behind him in the closing laps to win last year’s Indianapolis 500. On Sunday, however, the last of three red flags in the final 16 laps of the race had the popular driver from Sweden breathing fire after Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden beat him at his own game on the final lap to win the Indianapolis 500.

Despite the two disappointments, team owner Chip Ganassi was seen on pit road fist-bumping a member on his four-car team in this year’s Indianapolis 500 after his drivers finished second, fourth, sixth and seventh in the tightly contested race.

Those are pretty good results, but at the Indianapolis 500, there is just one winner and 32 losers.

“There is only one winner, but it was a hell of a show,” three-time Indianapolis 500 winner and Chip Ganassi Racing consultant Dario Franchitti told NBC Sports. “Alex was very fast, and he got absolutely caught out in somebody else’s wreck. There was nothing he could have done, but he and the 10 car, great recovery.

“Great recovery by all four cars because at half distance, we were not looking very good.”

After 92 laps, the first caution flew for Sting Ray Robb of Dale Coyne Racing hitting the Turn 1 wall.

During pit stops on Lap 94, Palou had left his stall when the second-place car driven by VeeKay ran into him, putting Palou’s Honda into the wall. The car sustained a damaged front wing, but the Chip Ganassi crew was able to get him back in the race on the lead lap but in 28th position.

Palou ultimately would fight his way to a fourth-place finish in a race the popular Spaniard could have won. His displeasure with VeeKay, whom he sarcastically called “a legend” on his team radio after the incident, was evident.

“The benefit of being on pole is you can drive straight and avoid crashes, and he was able to crash us on the side on pit lane, which is pretty tough to do, but he managed it,” Palou told NBC Sports. “Hopefully next year we are not beside him. Hopefully, next year we have a little better luck.”

Palou started on the pole and led 36 laps, just three fewer than race leader Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren Racing.

“We started really well, was managing the fuel as we wanted, our car was pretty good,” Palou said. “Our car wasn’t great, we dropped to P4 or P5, but we still had some good stuff.

“On the pit stop, the 21 (VeeKay) managed to clip us. Nothing we could have done there. It was not my team’s fault or my fault.

“We had to drop to the end. I’m happy we made it back to P4. We needed 50 more laps to make it happen, but it could have been a lot worse after that contact.

“I learned a lot, running up front at the beginning and in mid-pack and then the back. I learned a lot.

“It feels amazing when you win it and not so good when things go wrong. We were a bit lucky with so many restarts at the end to make it back to P4 so I’m happy with that.”

Palou said the front wing had to be changed and the toe-in was a bit off, but he still had a fast car.

In fact, his Honda was the best car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway all month. His pole-winning four lap average speed of 234.217 miles per hour around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a record for this fabled race.

Palou looked good throughout the race, before he had to scratch and claw and race his way back to the top-five after he restarted 28th.

In the Indianapolis 500, however, the best car doesn’t always win.

“It’s two years in a row that we were leading the race at the beginning and had to drop to last,” Palou said. “Maybe next year, we will start in the middle of the field and go on to win the race.

“I know he didn’t do it on purpose. It’s better to let that pass someday.”

Palou said the wild racing at the end was because the downforce package used in Sunday’s race means the drivers have to be aggressive. The front two cars can battle for the victory, but cars back in fourth or fifth place can’t help determine the outcome of the race.

That is when the “Tail of the Dragon” comes into the play.

Franchitti helped celebrate Ericsson’s win in 2022 with his “Tail of the Dragon” zigzag move – something he never had to do in any of his three Indianapolis 500 victories because they all finished under caution.

In 2023, however, IndyCar Race Control wants to make every attempt to finish the race under green, without going past the scheduled distance like NASCAR’s overtime rule.

Instead of extra laps, they stop the race with a red flag, to create a potential green-flag finish condition.

“You do what you have to do to win within the rules, and it’s within the rules, so you do it,” Franchitti said. “The race is 200 laps and there is a balance.

“Marcus did a great job on that restart and so did Josef. It was just the timing of who was where and that was it.

“If you knew it was going to go red, you would have hung back on the lap before.

“Brilliant job by the whole Ganassi organization because it wasn’t looking very good at half-distance.

“Full marks to Josef Newgarden and Team Penske.”

Franchitti is highly impressed by how well Ericsson works with CGR engineer Brad Goldberg and how close this combination came to winning the Indianapolis 500 two-years-in-a-row.

It would have been the first back-to-back Indy 500 winner since Helio Castroneves in 2001 and 2002.

“Oh, he’s a badass,” Franchitti said Ericsson. “He proved it last year. He is so calm all day. What more do you need? As a driver, he’s fast and so calm.”

Ericsson is typically in good spirits and jovial.

He was stern and direct on pit road after the race.

“I did everything right, I did an awesome restart, caught Josef off-guard and pulled away,” Ericsson said on pit lane. “It’s hard to pull away a full lap and he got me back.

“I’m mostly disappointed with the way he ended. I don’t think it was fair and safe to do that restart straight out of the pits on cold tires for everyone.

“To me, it was not a good way to end that race.

“Congrats to Josef. He didn’t do anything wrong. He is a worthy champion, but it shouldn’t have ended like that.”

Palou also didn’t understand the last restart, which was a one-start showdown.

“I know that we want to finish under green,” Palou said. “Maybe the last restart I did, I didn’t understand. It didn’t benefit the CGR team.

“I’m not very supportive of the last one, but anyway.”

Dixon called the red flags “a bit sketchy.”

“The Red Flags have become a theme to the end of the race, but sometimes they can catch you out,” Dixon said. “I know Marcus is frustrated with it.

“All we ask for is consistency. I think they will do better next time.

“It’s a tough race. People will do anything they can to win it and with how these reds fall, you have to be in the right place at the right time. The problem is when they throw a Red or don’t throw a Red dictates how the race will end.

“It’s a bloody hard race to win. Congrats to Josef Newgarden and to Team Penske.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500