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Russian Grand Prix rounds out F1’s busy April schedule on NBCSN

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Formula 1’s three-race in four-week stretch this April concludes with next weekend’s Russian Grand Prix, which can you can see live on NBCSN.

Both the race and Friday’s second free practice session air live on NBCSN while live qualifying airs on CNBC, so note that change.

Mercedes AMG Petronas is a perfect three-for-three at the Russian Grand Prix since its arrival on the F1 calendar in 2014. Lewis Hamilton won the first two races here while Nico Rosberg won last year. For the German driver, it was his fourth consecutive victory to open the season en route to his eventual march to the World Championship title.

That means that although it is only a three-race sample size, the Russian Grand Prix winner has gone on to win the World Championship every year, as Hamilton won this race before capturing the 2014 and 2015 titles.

Sebastian Vettel and Scuderia Ferrari are off to their strongest start together, with Vettel having won earlier this week at Bahrain for his second win in three races this season. He leads Hamilton by seven points, 68-61, and the two drivers are already on the verge of a runaway from the rest of the field in the battle for the 2017 title.

Valtteri Bottas (38 points) and Kimi Raikkonen (34) are already 30 or more points behind Vettel after just three races in third and fourth place in the championship.

Vettel, Bottas and Raikkonen have had checkered records in Russia. Vettel was irate last year after getting taken out by his successor at Red Bull Racing, Daniil Kvyat, on Kvyat’s home soil. It marked Kvyat’s last race at Red Bull before he and Max Verstappen swapped rides.

Meanwhile Bottas and Raikkonen had an infamous collision when battling over third place on the last lap in 2015, which opened the door for Sahara Force India’s Sergio Perez to take a surprise but well-earned podium finish that day.

As noted above, all sessions will be broadcast on CNBC, NBCSN or via the NBC Sports App. Leigh Diffey, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett are on the call with Will Buxton reporting from the pits and paddock.

Here’s the schedule, with stream links and TV network if applicable:

The next race is the Spanish Grand Prix, on May 14.

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.”