What to watch for: Hungarian Grand Prix (NBCSN, NBC Sports app from 7am ET)

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School’s almost out for summer in Formula 1 as the cars hit the track for the final time until the end of August with Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix.

Drivers’ championship leader Sebastian Vettel produced one of the qualifying displays of the season to score Ferrari’s third pole of the year, heading up a front row lock-out for the Italian marque.

Title rival Lewis Hamilton was left to settle for fourth place on the grid, with his chances of a sixth victory at the Hungaroring looking increasingly slim.

Will the momentum in the championship fight swing once again today? Ahead of the summer shutdown, there’s no better time for a twist to come about.

You can watch the Hungarian Grand Prix live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET. CLICK HERE for NBC live stream.

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

2017 Hungarian Grand Prix – What to watch for

Ferrari looks to convert qualy advantage into victory

Ferrari’s recent performances had raised doubts about its ability to compete with Mercedes across the rest of the season, with the German marque seeming to pull clear in recent races.

Ferrari was able to turn things around in Hungary on Saturday, the SF70H suiting the tight and twisting nature of the Hungaroring circuit nicely.

It is key for Ferrari to strike back and take full advantage of its edge today. If neither Vettel nor Raikkonen can bring it home and Mercedes captures a third straight win – particularly on outright pace – it would be a sign that this championship is becoming increasingly unbalanced.

Will Red Bull get into the fight?

Red Bull’s pace has been of particular interest so far this weekend. A raft of updates for the RB13 had Daniel Ricciardo feeling like he had a B-spec car underneath him, allowing him to top both practice sessions on Friday.

The pace did not carry through to qualifying as Max Verstappen and Ricciardo ended up P5 and P6, the pair requiring a fightback in today’s race if they are to give Red Bull a second win of the season.

The RB13 looked strong through the long runs, meaning a Red Bull win is certainly not inconceivable. Do we have a four-way fight on our hands today?

Alonso, Vandoorne get chance to break through

Hungary has been a good race for McLaren so far. Having known the tighter nature of the circuit would suit the MCL32 car better – or, more accurately, expose the weaknesses of the Honda power unit less – the team had high hopes, and they were justified in qualifying as Alonso and Vandoorne secured P7 and P8 on the grid.

Alonso’s confidence in the McLaren-Honda project has been wavering for some time, but it would be a good boost for him if he can convert the good qualifying result into a decent haul of points.

For Vandoorne, simply getting off the mark for 2017 will be the target today after a disappointing start to his full-time F1 career.

How will di Resta fair?

Paul di Resta’s surprising F1 comeback on Saturday left the paddock deeply impressed as he quickly got to grips with the 2017-spec Williams, qualifying just seven-tenths of a second off full-time racer Lance Stroll.

The Scotsman managed just five flying laps in the car, putting him into another steep learning experience on Sunday as he enters a full race distance – his longest in any form of racing since the 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix.

While few will expect di Resta to bother the points or have much of an impact, if he can get to the finish and stay in touch with the midfield, it would be a solid, solid statement.

2017 Hungarian Grand Prix – Starting Grid

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

A viewer’s guide to the 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona: What to watch in the debut of GTP

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona could put an unbelievable twist on one of motorsports’ most famous adages: Money buys speed, how fast do you want to go?

Money is being burned at an ungodly rate for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener, but the correlation between cash and performance might be completely disjointed after 24 hours on the Daytona International Speedway road course.

The debut of a new premier hybrid prototype category has some of the world’s largest automakers flocking to the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP), where annual budgets have been estimated at $15 million per for the new Le Mans Daytona hybrid (LMDh) cars.

With nine GTP cars starting the Rolex 24 at Daytona across Acura, BMW, Cadillac and Porsche, it’s safe to say the manufacturers have committed at least nine figures to launching what many are calling a new golden age for sports car racing.

But there’s no guarantee that any of the cars will finish the race. In fact, some are predicting it’s inevitable that all will spend at least some significant time in the Daytona garage repairing a high-tech car that never has raced for 24 consecutive hours. And in an era of pandemic-related supply-chain worries, there are major concerns that full repairs will be impossible even if necessary.

DETAILS FOR THE 61ST ROLEX 24How to watch, entry lists, schedules for the IMSA season opener

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN GTPRolex 24 at Daytona kicks off new golden era for sports cars

It’s added another layer to the pressure involved with one of the most prestigious races in the world.

“From a manufacturer perspective, this is high-stakes motorsports,” Wayne Taylor Racing No. 10 Acura driver Ricky Taylor told NBC Sports. “This is as big as it gets. To debut at the Rolex 24 is such a high-stakes event and puts such a big test on everybody. The pressure all the manufacturers and teams are under is immense. Once we get through it and survive, there’ll be a sigh of relief. But until then, we all feel the eyes of the manufacturers on us.

“It’s going to be a pressure cooker for sure.”

Along with “unpredictability” and “reliability” being buzzwords the past two weeks at Daytona, there also has been some wistful predictions that this year’s Rolex 24 will be a throwback to a bygone era when endurance races truly were a survival of the fittest instead of the fastest.

After turning into a series of 24 one-hour sprint races for many years, no one is predicting that drivers will punish their equipment with so much at stake and so few safety nets.

“This race is going to be like races from the bloody ‘70s and ‘60s,” pole-sitter Tom Blomqvist of defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing told NBC Sports. “So it’ll be like when you watch that ‘Ford vs. Ferrari,’ and they’re coming into the pits repairing serious things and still going out and coming back. It’s going to be like that, mate.

“Yeah, we don’t know. We are not 100 percent confident that our car is as reliable as it needs to be. We definitely would have liked another year. All season before we came here to this race. But everyone’s in a similar boat. Some manufacturers are further down the line than others in terms of mileage. We’re still finding things popping up here and there that we didn’t see or suspect. It’s going to be a tough race without a doubt. I’m almost certain that we’ll be spending some time in the garage. Hopefully we get lucky, but let’s say we’re not going to be surprised if we are back in the garage at some point. We don’t want to jinx anything, but it’s prepare for the worst and hope for the best sort of thing.”

Teammate Simon Pagenaud said the race will be “the 24 Hours of the Mechanics. It’s going to be a team that’s able to repair the car the fastest way possible. It’s a little more like it used to be about reliability and making sure you take care of your equipment.

“We don’t have enough time yet to be able control fully the reliability, and we haven’t done enough laps to be able to say what’s going to break first or second. You’re going into it with a bit of jitters not knowing. It’s going to be definitely a very, very different race, I think.”

Here’s a viewer’s guide of some topics to keep an eye on during the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona:

Testing time: Though announced in January 2020, LMDh cars have been on track since only about a year ago. Porsche was the first to commit and has logged more than 30,000 kilometers of testing. Cadillac also has done significant real-world testing, but Acura admittedly has done little endurance testing, and BMW has tried to play catch up since being the last automaker to commit to the project.

Only Porsche and Cadillac can claim to have simulated the duration that cars will face this weekend. Porsche Penske Motorsport conducted a 36-hour test that managing director Jonathan Diuguid confirmed was “slightly higher” than 24 hours consecutively. Gary Nelson, team manager for Action Express, confirmed the No. 31 Cadillac ran for a full 24 hours at Sebring International Raceway last November. Acura also had attended the session but cut the test short after mechanical problems.

–Tortoise and hare: Every manufacturer has at least two cars, which creates opportunities for divergent strategies. When his team won the 2010 Rolex 24 at Daytona, Nelson said it was pushed hard by Chip Ganassi Racing’s prototypes in this tactic to wear down the competition.

“In old-school endurance racing, they’d call one a rabbit,” Nelson told NBC Sports. “He’d try to run the guts out of everybody to keep up with him, while the other (car) just followed around. There’s potential for something like that. I don’t think it’s in our playbook, but potentially there are people in these corporate offices, these manufacturers coming in, because they advanced through racing in the ‘80s and ‘90s and now they are managing these motorsports programs for these corporations. It’s very possible there’s someone from that era will say we’re going to have one rabbit, one tortoise. That’s very likely.

“We see that, I don’t think we take the bait. I think we stay with the plan.”

–LMP2 overall win? If mechanical problems do crop up for the GTP cars, the door will be opened for a victory by a car in the junior LMP2 prototype class. The LMP2 cars lap a few seconds slower and will need to make roughly nine extra pit stops than the GTP cars.

But according to NBC Sports analyst Calvin Fish, those factors would leave LMP2 cars about an hour behind GTP. That means if major mechanical problems befall all the GTP cars, an LMP2 likely would be leading. Diuguid said it would take over an hour to change out the major components on the hybrid system.

“If you have to change the gearbox, a suspension component or a hybrid component, your opportunity to win is probably over,” Diuguid said.

Nelson also predicted that teams will be more aggressive with making brake changes. Though his car’s brakes made it 24 hours last year, they generally require at least one swap. Nelson believes that will happen anywhere between the sixth and 18th hour – but probably on the early end in a concept similar to short pitting in NASCAR.

“We’re hoping our brakes make it all the way and haven’t seen anything that told us they won’t,” Nelson said. “A few years ago, we were changing brakes on anything between 6 and 18 hours. If everybody had to change the brakes in past years and you’re the last to do it, you have the least amount of time to gain it back.”

–Electric pit stops: Though it’s not IMSA-mandated, teams are using electric power only to enter and exit the pits for myriad reasons. The practice allows for a more efficient acceleration and deceleration that helps ensure hitting the speed limit. And it puts less strain on gearboxes that will be stressed over 24 hours.

–New tire strategies: With teams restricted to about a dozen fewer sets of tires, teams will be double-stinting for fuel only without opting for fresh rubber.

Nelson said the Action Express Whelen Engineering team was planning to make its tire changes coincide with its driver changes (unlike the normal practice of changing tires on most pit stops).

–Three’s the magic number: More than half the GTP teams are employing a trio of drivers instead of the maximum four that has been popular with many teams in past years. Though Colton Herta is listed as the fourth driver on BMW’s two cars, the IndyCar star might only drive one.

The shift comes as Penske and Porsche plan to field full-time entries in the World Endurance Championship, which allows only three drivers per car.

–GTD battles: Mercedes dominated qualifying, but there have been charges of sandbagging by the Ferrari and Porsche GT favorites.

That isn’t the case with defending GTD Pro class winner Pfaff Motorsports, whose No. 9 Porsche struggled to make laps in practice.

Women in racing: Led by the all-female Iron Dames lineup, there will be several opportunities for women to reach the podium or take a class victory at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Sports car ace Katherine Legge is teamed with Sheena Monk on the No. 66 for Gradient Racing.