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What To Watch For: Brazilian GP (NBCSN, Live Extra from 10:30am ET)

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Lewis Hamilton may already have clinched his third Formula 1 drivers’ championship, but there is still plenty to play for in the remaining two races of the 2015 season as he battles for supremacy with teammate Nico Rosberg.

Having struggled to match Hamilton for most of the year, Rosberg has shown signs of a revival in recent weeks, claiming five straight pole positions in the lead-up to Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

For the second year in a row, Rosberg will start from pole at Interlagos ahead of Hamilton as he goes in search of a fifth victory of the season.

By getting in some late blows in this year, Rosberg will be hoping to set himself up for a renewed title bid in 2016, placing pressure on both Mercedes drivers on Sunday.

Here’s what to watch for in today’s Brazilian Grand Prix, live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 10:30am ET on Sunday.

What To Watch For – 2015 Brazilian Grand Prix

The Rosberg Renaissance?

He may have lost the championship, but we’ve seen a different side to Nico Rosberg in recent weeks. Having put up little fight to his teammate for the title, the German appears to have rediscovered the form that made him so dangerous in 2014 when he ran Hamilton all the way to the final race of the season.

Recording back-to-back victories in Brazil would be a big statement, particularly at a race that Hamilton so dearly wants to win. This is a big weekend for Rosberg – the psychological battle for 2016 is already underway.

Hamilton’s ‘to do’ list

There isn’t much that Lewis Hamilton has not won in Formula 1, but the Brazilian Grand Prix is still on his ‘to do’ list. There have been near-misses in the past (2012 being his best chance), and it will forever be the site of his dramatic title victory back in 2008.

However, he is yet to emulate hero Ayrton Senna by winning at Interlagos. In a year that saw him match the legendary Brazilian’s title tally, Hamilton will be hungry to go one step further and finally check this off his hit list.

Seb’s waiting on a miracle

Sebastian Vettel will take up his usual starting slot of P3 for today’s Brazilian Grand Prix, but the Ferrari driver has not given up hope of winning for a fourth time in 2015. Vettel said after qualifying that he hopes Ferrari can “create a miracle” at Interlagos and capitalize on the unpredictable nature of the race.

Indeed, the Brazilian Grand Prix is notorious for drama and suspense, but unless rain strikes on Sunday, it is hard to see Ferrari mounting much of a challenge to Mercedes. In a race that sees a split between two and three stops, Ferrari should be able to take advantage of the SF15-T’s kinder tire treatment, but it’s unlikely to be enough to bother the Mercedes runners.

Home favorites

Felipe Massa and Felipe Nasr will be flying the flag for Brazil on Sunday at Interlagos, and both have a good chance of points in the race on Sunday starting from P8 and P13 respectively.

For Nasr, this marks his first home grand prix, and offers a good opportunity for him to add to his growing points haul in his rookie season. Sauber appears to be in better shape in Brazil, with Marcus Ericsson also working his way into Q2 on Sunday.

More misery for McLaren?

After #PlacesAlonsoWouldRatherBe took the internet by storm on Saturday, McLaren will be hoping to make the headlines of the right reasons on Sunday – as unlikely as it may be.

Having completed just one lap in Mexico and stopped in both practice and qualifying so far this weekend, Fernando Alonso will be keen to buck the trend and make some kind of progress from the back of the grid.

Teammate Jenson Button starts a few places further forward, but both know that it will most probably require a race ‘out of the norm’ to give them points.

More memes would be welcome, of course.

2015 BRAZILIAN GRAND PRIX – STARTING GRID

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

* grid penalty applied

Oliver Askew: ‘I was starting to lose confidence’ after ‘hardest hit I’ve had’

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Oliver Askew knew something was medically wrong in the days after concussion-like symptoms began from “the hardest hit I’ve ever had” in the Indianapolis 500. He’d been evaluated and cleared to race after the Aug. 23 crash, but he just didn’t feel right.

The IndyCar rookie told The Associated Press on Thursday he has been experiencing dizziness, sleeping difficulties, irritability, headaches and confusion since he crashed in the Aug. 23 race. He continued to race in four more events as he tried to “play through it” until friends and family encouraged him to seek medical treatment.

He since has been diagnosed with a concussion and is working on a recovery plan with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s sports medicine concussion program, the same place NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. received care after concussions in 2012 and ’16. Askew will not compete in next weekend’s doubleheader on the road course at Indianapolis, and Arrow McLaren SP will put three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves in the No. 7 Chevrolet.

“This is all I’ve worked for,” the 23-year-old told AP. “I don’t come from money, and I’ve worked my way up and have finally gotten my shot in a good car. And then all of a sudden, the results just weren’t there in a car I knew should be performing. And I just didn’t feel like myself, you know?

“So initially I felt like I needed to stay in the car and continue to improve. And then I didn’t feel like I could do that with my condition and what was going on. I was starting to lose confidence in myself.”

Earnhardt praised Askew for going to Pittsburgh to see Dr. Micky Collins.

“Oliver is in the best hands when it comes to taking care of this problem and getting back on the racetrack. It was very smart of him to get in front of Micky so that he could understand the seriousness of the situation and begin the process of getting well,” Earnhardt said. “You can absolutely heal from this but not without taking the step of getting help. Often that’s the most difficult step.”

Athletes often hide injuries to continue competing, and even Earnhardt admittedly masked concussions during his driving career. Askew didn’t know what was wrong with him but was frightened to get out of the car.

He is a paid driver who brings no sponsorship money to the team (but did bring a $1 million scholarship for winning last year’s Indy Lights championship), and owner Sam Schmidt holds the option on his contract.

As he tried to race on, his performance suffered. Askew had finished third and sixth at Iowa — the previous two races before Indianapolis. After the crash, he was part of a multicar accident the next week at Gateway and has not finished higher than 14th in the four races since Indy.

A year after winning seven Indy Lights races, Askew has fallen from 12th to 18th in the standings and slipped considerably off the pace. He said he struggled in team debriefs, had difficulty giving feedback and has gone through a personality change that was noticeable to those close to Askew.

Spire Sports + Entertainment, which represents Askew and was among those who pushed the driver to see a doctor, noted Arrow McLaren SP did not reveal that Askew was suffering from a concussion in its Thursday announcement he would miss next week’s race.

“Oliver clearly demonstrated his talent until Lap 91 of the Indianapolis 500, and I hope this does not become another case study of why athletes do not tell their teams they are injured,” said agent Jeff Dickerson. “The reason they do that is because more often times than not they are replaced. In motorsports, there is always somebody to replace you, and whether it was Dale Jr. or Oliver Askew, there is always another driver available.

“I hope this is not a barrier to progress for other drivers — especially young drivers afraid of losing their job — to notify their teams they are hurt. I hope the team proves me wrong because the good news is, the kid has had a head injury for the past month and has still run 14th in IndyCar.”

After finally seeking medical treatment, Askew said he was relieved to learn there was something wrong. He said doctors told him the injury has a “100% recovery rate” and he believes he will be able to race in the IndyCar season finale next month at St. Petersburg. He’s been rehabilitating with exercises and tasks that strain the brain such as deliberately going to grocery stores and the airport.

“Honestly, you know, if I had not gone to see medical professionals I would probably stay in the car,” Askew said. “But now after hearing what’s wrong and that it could get worse, God forbid I have another hit, I know I did the right thing. I think I can be an example for young drivers now in stepping up and saying something is wrong, I need to have this checked out.”