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F1 Paddock Pass: Azerbaijan Grand Prix (VIDEO)

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Formula 1 returns to Europe this weekend with the renamed Azerbaijan Grand Prix from the Baku City Circuit. The track is the second longest on the schedule and the race is renamed after being called the European Grand Prix last year (all times for the weekend via NBCSN or CNBC here).

Here with the latest from the paddock in Baku is the latest edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, with F1 pit reporter and insider Will Buxton joined by producer Jason Swales.

Swales celebrates his 300th Grand Prix on site this weekend, a major milestone after his 250th was celebrated a couple seasons ago at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas. As you can see below, McLaren Honda’s Fernando Alonso has joined in the festivities.

There’s plenty of fun to recap and plenty of important angles to preview in this week’s show, which you can see below in three parts.

Fernando Alonso rules out 2019 season in IndyCar: ‘Was never an option’

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Fernando Alonso has made his decision on racing in the IndyCar Series for the 2019 season – and it’s likely not what many expected.

Alonso, who is retiring from Formula One racing at the end of this season, made it clear at Circuit of the Americas, site of Sunday’s U.S. Grand Prix, that he will not be mounting a full-time or even part-time campaign in IndyCar next season.

That’s likely much to the dismay of countless fans, not to mention the IndyCar Series.

“I went there (Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama) and tested an Indy car in September just to know how the cars felt like,” Alonso said in an ESPN.com story. “But there was no hidden agenda, no other plan for the future.

“I’ve read people saying this was a setback for me but it wasn’t, because it was never in my plans to do a full IndyCar season, so nothing changed for me.”

What is certain for 2019 for Alonso is that he will drive for Toyota in the second half of the World Endurance Championship, which ends at Le Mans in June.

As a result, he can’t logistically do a full IndyCar season, but doesn’t rule out the possibility in the future, perhaps 2020 at the earliest.

“My program for next year has been clear for me for many months, but we need to put things together, do a crossover of many plans from different series, different companies and when it will always be settled we’ll make the announcement,” Alonso said. “But doing a full IndyCar season was never an option.

“I’ll want to do some IndyCar in the future but not next year for sure. That would mean doing 17 races, all in America, learning the category and the tracks from zero, so that would require a commitment and determination that was never in my plans.”

That, even though speculation was rampant that Alonso was definitely heading to IndyCar in 2019, with teams such as Andretti Autosport and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing as the anticipated suitors for his talent.

The 2-time F1 champ isn’t totally ruling out a return to the Indy 500, but given his WEC pursuit, it may be difficult for him to devote two full weeks to racing (plus potential additional testing) at Indy again. He led 27 laps in his only prior Indy 500 in 2017 before engine failure with 21 laps to go.

The Spanierd hinted a couple of days ago that he would be back in the 500, but hedged that slightly in his most recent comments.

“Doing a race like we did last year, the Indy 500, is something we’re evaluating now but there’s no decision taken, far from it,” Alonso said.

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