What to watch for: Canadian Grand Prix (NBC from 2pm ET; NBC Sports app from 1:30pm)

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And so, today’s Canadian Grand Prix presents a 180-degree curveball from the Monaco Grand Prix two weeks ago. Where Ferrari was dominant on the streets of Monte Carlo, Mercedes has struck back thus far through the preliminary sessions at the combo park/street circuit/road course that is the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

It presents a golden opportunity for Lewis Hamilton to strike back in the championship race on the heels of his 65th career pole position.

Meanwhile Sebastian Vettel will look for his second straight win this season from second on the grid, having been oh-so-close but not fully ahead of Hamilton this weekend.

You can watch the Canadian Grand Prix live on NBC from 2pm ET and the NBC Sports app from 1:30pm ET on Sunday. CLICK HERE to watch via live stream.

Here is what to watch for in today’s race.

2017 Canadian Grand Prix – What to watch for

Hamilton vs. Vettel battle resumes

Montreal presents a race akin to Barcelona where it figures to be a straight fight between the two championship protagonists. Hamilton emerged ahead in Spain after a thrilling bout with Vettel. Meanwhile Vettel’s victories were more dominant by nature, his Monte Carlo win coming after a pit stop exchange with his teammate.

This is going to be an interesting test for the two drivers – and their Mercedes and Ferrari cars – in a straight power fight. Passing’s not been the easiest with the wider 2017 cars and their new tires, but Montreal is a track known for it.

Can Vettel and/or Hamilton stay close enough to the other where they can force their way by on track if they need to? Or will it again come down to pit stops for what is likely to be a one-stop race?

Bottas the wild card of note

Valtteri Bottas has gone rather well at Canada the last couple years. When the Williams Mercedes wasn’t at its zenith the last two years – it was better in 2014 – he still managed podiums both last year and in 2015, third at each occasion.

From third on the grid, Bottas has an important task ahead of him: get ahead of Vettel to help Hamilton however he can. Or, if he plays a blinder off the line as he did in Russia, can he get even further ahead into Turn 1? It was Vettel who launched from third to the lead here last year.

Bottas’ start is going to be pivotal for how the race plays out, and with Mercedes having yet to score a 1-2 finish this season, Sunday presents a good opportunity for them to do so.

Massa vs. the Force Indias

Given a new lease on life, Felipe Massa has done a sterling job this season for Williams Martini Racing as the undisputed team leader. As he hasn’t had good support from rookie teammate Lance Stroll from a points scoring perspective, how many points he scores versus the pair of Force India drivers, who’ll be keen to get back in the top-10 after a double non-score in Monaco, will be interesting to witness.

For Stroll, banking his first points of the year may be the goal, but doing so from 17th on the grid is a tough task in his home Grand Prix. Finishing needs to be the first goal for the teenaged rookie.

Brake wear and power delivery to monitor

As this is a power circuit where horsepower is king, it’s favored the Mercedes runners thus far – it’s been good weekends for the factory AMG Petronas team, and additionally the Mercedes-powered Sahara Force India and Williams Martini Racing squads, Massa as noted doing a good job in particular.

Elsewhere the Renault-powered cars have struggled. It took a seemingly Herculean effort for Max Verstappen to get his TAG Heuer-badged Red Bull into fifth on the grid but neither he nor Daniel Ricciardo looks likely to get Red Bull onto the podium for a third straight race. Toro Rosso missed out of Q3 with its pair of unbadged Renault engines as well, and with Carlos Sainz Jr. having an engine issue on Friday, they’ve not had a clean weekend.

Romain Grosjean has rallied this weekend through various spins and at a track where brakes matter more than almost anywhere else, seeing him crack the points in his Haas-Ferrari would be something of a surprise given the brakes have seemingly affected him more than most.

Honda and McLaren? What else can be said. If Fernando Alonso can scrape a point out of Sunday’s race he’ll have done beyond the best that seems possible.

Canada occasionally throws up surprise results and reliability and/or brake wear may impact who finishes where.

2017 Canadian Grand Prix – Starting Grid

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

You can watch the Canadian Grand Prix live on NBC from 2pm ET and the NBC Sports app from 1:30pm ET on Sunday. CLICK HERE to watch via live stream.

Tom Blomqvist keeps eye on IndyCar during impressive rise: ‘ I would love to give it a go’

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In between two of his latest superstar-driver-in-waiting performances, Tom Blomqvist walked through the Daytona International Speedway garage in anonymity.

“Nobody knows who the (expletive) I am,” he said to a team member with a laugh (and without a trace of being miffed), evincing the cheeky humor of someone born in England, raised in New Zealand and also of Swedish descent.

The lack of recognition in the garage might have been because he was clad in a relatively nondescript shirt, hat and sunglasses instead of a colorful firesuit covered by sponsor logos. But he also was on the way to a Friday race eve media availability where his entrance was greeted by only one reporter (after a few minutes).

During a news conference a day earlier, he sat patiently on the dais while his Indy 500-winning teammates and car owner fielded nearly all the questions – even though Blomqvist had turned maybe the most impressive lap of the month to win the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position in the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category.

The Meyer Shank Racing driver still might lack the attention commensurate with his already world-class CV (which expanded Sunday with his second consecutive Rolex 24  victory for MSR), but Blomqvist, 29, clearly isn’t bothered by it.

He carries the quiet confidence of knowing his immense talent will ensure results that will make him impossible to ignore.

“To a degree, I guess, it’s definitely ramped up a lot for me,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports. “In America, I’m starting to get a lot more (attention). In the last year, I’ve quite often got a lot of maybe what you’d call the glory moments. It’s been fun. And within the paddock, there’s a lot of respect for me anyway. It’s been good.”

There have been several moments of acclaim since he joined MSR barely a year ago in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. In his first start for the team at last year’s Rolex 24, Blomqvist turned in a Herculean performance to position the No. 60 Acura for the victory (giving way to Helio Castroneves because he was too “cooked” to complete the last 74 minutes).

He was even better this year at Daytona.

He ripped off a monster “one and done” pole-winning lap to beat the clock in qualifying on the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course. During the race, Blomqvist was as dominant in his first stint as his last in the ARX-06 while taking the checkered flag. He set the mark for the fastest time on Lap 6 that no one topped over the final 755 laps.

The 10 fastest laps in the race belonged to Blomqvist, carrying over his speed from the 2022 when he won the Petit Le Mans season finale to clinch the premier prototype championship at Michelin Road Atlanta.

A year earlier at the same track, he had burst onto the radar of car owner Mike Shank, who was intrigued by Blomqvist’s results as a BMW factory driver in the Formula E and DTM series. In 2014, Blomqvist also finished between second in F3, between champion Esteban Ocon (now with Alpine’s F1 team) and Max Verstappen (who has won the past two Formula One championships).

“He did a lot of high-level stuff, and then kind of fell out of favor, or I don’t know what happened, but he was a free agent,” Shank said. “I started looking at his numbers, and I’m like, ‘We should test this guy. So I take him to Road Atlanta in the fall of ’21, and he got in the car and just slayed it.”

Within minutes, he had called co-owner Jim Meyer.

“I’ve got our guy,” Shank said. “This is our guy. There’s no question about it.

Honda Performance Development president David Salters hugs Tom Blomqvist after the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

“Now what’s happened, though, and I think if you look back at the Rolex here last year (and) what he did, he’s a gold nugget. He reminds me a little bit when (Robert) Wickens came into IndyCar out of DTM (as a rookie in 2018).

“He truly believes he’s the fastest guy out there, and he proved it (at the Rolex 24).”

Said David Salters, president for Honda Performance Development: “We love Tom. He’s the real deal, isn’t he? Immensely talented, super smart, and on it.

The great thing about our teams, the strength in depth is tremendous. But if you look through the sports car racing now, that’s the standard you have to have. Tom, brilliant, Filipe (Albuquerque), brilliant. Ricky (Taylor). You can go through that list. They’re all superstars. Tom is awesome. His lap in qualifying quite frankly was unbelievable.”


Having conquered one of the world’s greatest endurance races twice with Acura, Blomqvist could be ticketed for the world’s biggest race next – the Indy 500 — with HPD’s primary brand.

He tested a Dallara-Honda for MSR last October at Sebring International Raceway, and while he plans to focus solely on IMSA this season, he remains very intrigued by IndyCar.

And with Castroneves, 47, beginning a one-year deal with MSR’s IndyCar team, there could be an obvious opening in 2024.

“Obviously, it’s not in the cards this year,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports the day before the Rolex. “Yeah, I would love to give it a go. To be honest, I think that would be an amazing step for me in my career. I enjoy the sports car stuff so much. It’s been really good to me lately. I really enjoyed the style of racing.

“But I feel like IndyCar would be a step up for me and my career. It would be fantastic if I could get that opportunity. But yeah, I guess I have to keep pushing Mike or something to give me a shot. But obviously for now, the focus is here in the sports car stuff. It’s not really down to me at the end of the day. And I’ve got to do my job and then the people who pay the bills and make the decisions obviously have to decide if that’s something worth pursuing.

“But yeah, I’d love to give it a go, and I definitely would be up for it.”

Tom Blomqvist after winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole on the final qualifying lap (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

A transition from IMSA to IndyCar naturally would be easier than switching teams, but it also would be comfortable because Blomqvist already seems such a good fit at MSR.

It might have seemed an unusual pairing given his European-heavy background, but Blomqvist likes the Midwestern culture that’s been built at MSR. Based just outside Columbus, Ohio, the team’s shop has “no egos, and that just enables each and every one of to reach our potential.

“Obviously, with Honda, we obviously have some great resources, but we’re up against Porsche, BMW and some big heavy hitters in the motorsports world,” he said. “I wouldn’t say we’ve got a huge team compared to them, but we’ve obviously got a very capable team, and I think that’s what has been so impressive and really, really nice to see about the work that’s been done. No stone has been left unturned.”


Blomqvist still is living in Europe and planning to commute for the nine-race GTP schedule (which has a nearly two-month break after the Rolex 24 until the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring). But though he’s “got good friends in America, so I do have places to stay,” he seems open to being based more permanently near MSR in America.

“Let’s see what the future brings, and if that means me spending more time over here,” he said. “It’s a fantastic team. It’s a different environment to what I’m used to. It’s obviously now a hugely successful team, but it is a small team. It does feel like a very small family-operated team, which it is.

“I think Mike’s really just built this thing. It hasn’t happened overnight. Mike’s a great guy and put a lot of trust and faith in me, and I played a relatively good part in some of the success last year. I was able to reward him and give him my all every time I’m on track, and he respects that. But we are still a small team. In the grand scheme of things, we still are a really, really small team.”

Blomqvist said the BMW factory program would have two or three times the staffing of MSR – just on one of its two GTP cars.

“But it’s not the number of people that makes a difference, it’s the quality of people, and obviously Mike and HPD are a fantastic operation to go racing,” Blomqvist said. “We’re racers at heart.

“I’ve been part of some big outfits, and the European way of working is very, very different to how people go about racing in America. I’d say it’s more seat of your pants. A lot of emotion and kind of rides on that competitive spirt, competitive nature and on their personalities. It’s a lot more pure. It feels very pure. You want to win, so we go out and don’t cut corners on trying to win.”

Though it’s aligned with Liberty Media and has big-budget backing and support from Honda Performance Development, MSR also is much less corporate than most GTP teams.

A longtime and respected team owner who has built a sponsor portfolio, Shank also describes his maniacal dedication to success as “messed up,” and he’s known for dropping vulgarities into postrace interview with his blunt and self-deprecating sense of humor.

Meyer Shank Racing co-owner Mike Shank congratulates Tom Blomqvist on the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

With a more laid-back but sometimes just as biting demeanor, Blomqvist has become the team’s unquestioned leader behind the wheel

“I definitely feel a lot more immersed,” he said. “Within the team, I was a bit more of an unknown quantity the start of last year. Obviously after last season, the team trusts me a lot. And that gives me a lot of pleasure, pride and confidence. In this sport, confidence is a huge aspect of drivers’ psychology in a way. We’re in extremely high-pressure moments where my job is to perform under the pressure of these organizations and the brand as well.

“It’s just a good, healthy team to be a part of. It’s a high-pressure environment, but the team obviously have put a lot of faith in me, and I’ve been able to deliver for them on occasions.”

Rolex 24 starting lineup
Tom Blomqvist celebrates after winning the pole in the No. 60 Acura ARX-06 (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).