What to watch for: United States Grand Prix (NBC, NBC Sports app from 2:30pm ET)

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Sunday marks one of the biggest dates on the American motorsport calendar as Formula 1 hits the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas for the United States Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton continued his strong record in the U.S. on Saturday in Austin by taking his ninth pole position of the season, edging out Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg by two-tenths of a second in the Q3 shootout.

Remarkably, it was Hamilton’s first COTA pole despite being a three-time winner in Texas, giving him a much-needed boost as he looks to get his championship bid back on-track after losing ground on Rosberg in recent weeks.

Rosberg will start alongside his title rival on the grid, setting the stage for another all-Mercedes tussle for the third year in a row at COTA.

With a variety of strategies on offer, Sunday’s race should be full of unpredictability. It may have to go some way to match the madness of the 2015 edition – but at least things should be a little drier for those on the ground at COTA this time around…

You can watch the United States Grand Prix live on NBC and the NBC Sports app from 2:30pm ET on Sunday. CLICK HERE to watch via live stream.

Here is our complete raceday preview for the United States Grand Prix.

2016 United States Grand Prix – What to watch for

Nothing for Lewis to lose

Lewis Hamilton will know that, even with a clean sweep of victories between now and the end of the season, a fourth world title is by no means guaranteed. The damage to his title bid has already been done, placing it in Nico Rosberg’s hands.

As a result, Hamilton will go into Sunday’s race knowing he has nothing to lose. The first corner squeeze with Rosberg last year stoked tension, so keep an eye out for a similar move this time around from either party.

In reality, this should be Hamilton’s race to lose. His record at COTA is such that, barring another issue, the rest of the pack may not get close. Time for him to rediscover his form and end his win drought.

Tactics from Rosberg?

Rosberg’s ‘one race at a time’ approach to this year’s title may have been somewhat tiresome, but it appears to be doing the trick. 33 points clear with 100 left on the table – this championship is his to lose.

The German has made a habit of impressing at tracks he’d previously struggled at this year. Wins in Australia, Bahrain, China, Russia, Belgium, Italy and Singapore were all ‘firsts’ – and, bar Singapore, all tracks at which Hamilton won in 2015. They’re big gains to have been made in the title battle.

It’s unlikely Rosberg will want to settle for second at COTA, but if he isn’t ahead at the start, it may be the safest thing to do. If, however, he makes a cleaner getaway and is able to throw his car up the inside at Turn 1, he could deal yet another blow to Hamilton’s already-faint title hopes.

Verstappen a contender on strategy?

Red Bull’s long run pace on Friday was, to quote Daniel Ricciardo, “delicious”, stoking hopes that the team may be able to take the fight to Mercedes at COTA.

Realistically, its best chance of doing so lies with Max Verstappen, who followed the Mercedes drivers on strategy and will start the race on the soft compound tire. A one-stop (soft to medium) is definitely possible for the trio – throw in a safety car, and Verstappen may be able to take the fight to Hamilton and Rosberg.

Ricciardo must not be discounted though. We saw in Singapore how effective an extra stop switching to the qualifying tire can be – could he charge through and take a popular COTA victory?

Haas’ homecoming holds little promise

Hopes were high for Haas ahead of its first home grand prix weekend, but it has proven to be something of a disaster thus far. Issues on both Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez’s cars in practice hurt the team before it suffered its worst qualifying display since China on Saturday.

Gutierrez will start 14th with Grosjean 17th, leaving Haas with a mountain to climb in the day. Conditions are set to remain dry, and with the midfield battle being so tight, Haas risks being left behind.

Nevertheless, seeing an American team race on American soil will be a sight to behold.

Austin crowd numbers

Following last night’s successful Taylor Swift concert, attention will now turn to the gate figure coming out of COTA. Circuit CEO Bobby Epstein told me that the track is expecting its second-highest attendance this weekend, adding “if this one doesn’t work, nothing will”. Lofty expectations.

Expect to see an awful lot of red, white and blue – and thankfully no umbrellas – in the grandstands on Sunday. There may be no American drivers, but Americans still love their Formula 1.

2016 United States Grand Prix – Starting Grid

1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes
3. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
4. Max Verstappen Red Bull
5. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
6. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari
7. Nico Hulkenberg Force India
8. Valtteri Bottas Williams
9. Felipe Massa Williams
10. Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso
11. Sergio Perez Force India
12. Fernando Alonso McLaren
13. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso
14. Esteban Gutierrez Haas
15. Jolyon Palmer Renault
16. Marcus Ericsson Sauber
17. Romain Grosjean Haas
18. Kevin Magnussen Renault
19. Jenson Button McLaren
20. Pascal Wehrlein Manor
21. Felipe Nasr Sauber
22. Esteban Ocon Manor

Winner Josef Newgarden earns $3.666 million from a record Indy 500 purse of $17 million


INDIANAPOLIS — The first Indy 500 victory for Josef Newgarden also was the richest in race history from a record 2023 purse of just more than $17 million.

The two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion, who continued his celebration Monday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway earned $3.666 million for winning the 107th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

The purse and winner’s share both are the largest in the history of the Indianapolis 500.

It’s the second consecutive year that the Indy 500 purse set a record after the 2022 Indy 500 became the first to crack the $16 million mark (nearly doubling the 2021 purse that offered a purse of $8,854,565 after a crowd limited to 135,000 because of the COVID-19 pandemic).

The average payout for IndyCar drivers was $500,600 (exceeding last year’s average of $485,000).

Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske, whose team also fields Newgarden’s No. 2 Dallara-Chevrolet, had made raising purses a priority since buying the track in 2020. But Penske but was unable to post big money purses until the race returned to full capacity grandstands last year.

The largest Indy 500 purse before this year was $14.4 million for the 2008 Indy 500 won by Scott Dixon (whose share was $2,988,065). Ericsson’s haul made him the second Indy 500 winner to top $3 million (2009 winner Helio Castroneves won $3,048,005.

Runner-up Marcus Ericsson won $1.043 million after falling short by 0.0974 seconds in the fourth-closest finish in Indy 500 history.

The 107th Indy 500 drew a crowd of at least 330,000 that was the largest since the sellout for the 100th running in 2016, and the second-largest in more than two decades, according to track officials.

“This is the greatest race in the world, and it was an especially monumental Month of May featuring packed grandstands and intense on-track action,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said in a release. “Now, we have the best end card possible for the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500: a record-breaking purse for the history books.”

Benjamin Pedersen was named the Indy 500 rookie of the year, earning a $50,000 bonus.

The race’s purse is determined through contingency and special awards from IMS and IndyCar. The awards were presented Monday night in the annual Indy 500 Victory Celebration at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis.

The payouts for the 107th Indy 500:

1. Josef Newgarden, $3,666,000
2. Marcus Ericsson, $1,043,000
3. Santino Ferrucci, $481,800
4. Alex Palou, $801,500
5. Alexander Rossi, $574,000
6. Scott Dixon, $582,000
7. Takuma Sato, $217,300
8. Conor Daly, $512,000
9. Colton Herta, $506,500
10. Rinus VeeKay, $556,500
11. Ryan Hunter‐Reay, $145,500
12. Callum Ilott, $495,500
13. Devlin DeFrancesco, $482,000
14. Scott McLaughlin, $485,000
15. Helio Castroneves, $481,500
16. Tony Kanaan, $105,000
17. Marco Andretti, $102,000
18. Jack Harvey, $472,000
19. Christian Lundgaard, $467,500
20. Ed Carpenter, $102,000
21. Benjamin Pedersen (R), $215,300
22. Graham Rahal, $565,500*
23. Will Power, $488,000
24. Pato O’Ward, $516,500
25. Simon Pagenaud, $465,500
26. Agustín Canapino (R), $156,300
27. Felix Rosenqvist, $278,300
28. Kyle Kirkwood, $465,500
29. David Malukas, $462,000
30. Romain Grosjean, $462,000
31. Sting Ray Robb (R), $463,000
32. RC Enerson (R), $103,000
33.  Katherine Legge, $102,000

*–Broken down between two teams, $460,000 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, $105,500 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing/Cusick Motorsports