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Belgian Grand Prix restarts F1’s season this week on NBCSN

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The summer break is over at long last for Formula 1, with this week’s Belgian Grand Prix set to kick off a stretch of nine races over the next 14 weeks, and features three back-to-back runs.

The first of those races is the Belgian Grand Prix at the legendary Circuit de Spa-Francorhamps this weekend, with coverage on NBCSN, CNBC and the NBC Sports App.

NBCSN will feature live race (Sunday) and free practice two (Friday) coverage, with live qualifying coverage coming on CNBC (Saturday). The NBC Sports App will be the exclusive place to watch live for free practice one (Friday) and free practice three (Saturday), and streams all live sessions.

After three weeks off and the field’s rested, Spa presents an interesting test and a bit of varied history for the field.

Sebastian Vettel’s win at Hungary extended his points lead over Lewis Hamilton to 14 points, while Valtteri Bottas is a further 19 points back in third.

The Spa track should favor the Mercedes more than the Ferrari as more of a power circuit. Mercedes has won the last two races here with Nico Rosberg a year ago having kickstarted his championship season with a win here, and with Hamilton winning here in 2015.

Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull, 2014), Vettel (Red Bull, 2013) and Jenson Button (McLaren, 2012) make it five different Belgian Grand Prix winners in the last five years – none of which are Ferrari.

Ferrari’s most recent win here was in 2009 with Kimi Raikkonen, which also remains Raikkonen’s most recent Ferrari win – he hasn’t won a Grand Prix overall since the 2013 Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne with Lotus.

Raikkonen leads active drivers with four Belgian wins (2004, 2005, 2007, 2009) while Hamilton and Vettel have two apiece, Ricciardo has the 2014 win and Felipe Massa has a 2008 win here (albeit in controversial circumstances).

Beyond the top three teams, this track could play well for the Sahara Force India team, which has occasionally overachieved at this circuit. Giancarlo Fisichella scored a pole and second place finish for the team here in 2009 and there have been other fourth place finishes scored over the years. A big opportunity could present itself for the consistent points scoring pair of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon. Williams, another Mercedes-powered team, will also look to have some success.

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

  • Practice 1: Friday, August 25, 4 a.m.-5:30 a.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Practice 2: Friday, August 25, 8 a.m.-9:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Practice 3: Saturday, August 26, 5 a.m.-6 a.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Qualifying: Saturday, August 26, 8 a.m.-9:30 a.m. ET (CNBC)
  • Qualifying (Replay): Saturday, August 26, 12:30 p.m.-2 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Pre-Race: Sunday, August 27, 7 a.m.-8 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race: Sunday, August 27, 8 a.m.-10 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Post-Race: Sunday, August 27, 10 a.m.-10:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race (Replay): Sunday, August 27, 7 p.m.-9 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race (Replay): Monday, August 28, 3 p.m.-5 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Formula 2: Sunday, August 27, 6 a.m.-7 a.m. ET (NBCSN)

The next race is the Italian Grand Prix, on September 3, for the second race in this back-to-back run.

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.