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F1 Japanese GP on NBCSN, NBC Sports app

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One of the classic races on the Formula 1 schedule occurs this weekend, with the Japanese Grand Prix from the Suzuka International Circuit. It’s the second race of a back-to-back after Malaysia and third race in the Singapore-Malaysia-Japan early fall Asian swing on the calendar.

Additionally, the Formula 2 series has a standalone race weekend in Jerez, Spain as it closes on the end of its season.

You can see all the action of both races this weekend on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from Suzuka and Jerez.

F1 JAPANESE GRAND PRIX

Live coverage of Sunday’s race begins at midnight ET with an hour of pre-race in F1 Countdown, with lights out at 1 a.m. ET. Additional live TV coverage occurs for qualifying at 2 a.m. ET on Saturday, October 7 and free practice two at 1 a.m. ET on Friday, October 6 – all these on NBCSN. Free practices one and three will air on the NBC Sports App.

Since the Japanese Grand Prix returned to Suzuka in 2009 after a two-year detour to Fuji Speedway in 2007 and 2008, Mercedes AMG Petronas and Red Bull Racing have won seven of the eight races – the lone exception being Jenson Button in a McLaren Mercedes in 2011.

Sebastian Vettel won four times for Red Bull in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013, winning the World Championship in each of the last three years.

Meanwhile at Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton won in 2014 and 2015 and Nico Rosberg here last year, and each has gone onto win the championship that year.

That means it’s been five years on the trot that the winner in Suzuka has gone on to win the World Championship.

With Hamilton on a 34-point lead with five races remaining, he can move even closer to his fourth title – which would match Vettel – if he can win this weekend.

Vettel and Scuderia Ferrari will be looking to stop the bleeding after two brutal races in Singapore and Malaysia for the team. The start line crash at Singapore saw Vettel’s deficit in the championship increase from three points to 28, while it grew a further six points last weekend after engine issues in qualifying and a rally back to fourth place from last on the grid. Kimi Raikkonen didn’t even get that far, unable to start, and after two races where he hasn’t completed a single race lap the Finn will be keen to get back on the board this weekend.

Ferrari hasn’t won here since Michael Schumacher did so in 2004. Raikkonen won a year later, one of his most famous victories in 2005, from 17th on the grid and after a last lap pass of Giancarlo Fisichella.

Malaysia Grand Prix winner Max Verstappen was second here last year to Rosberg, Hamilton third after a brutal start saw him drop back. Verstappen made his Grand Prix weekend debut here as a Friday driver in 2014. Somewhat surprisingly, Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo has never stood on a podium in Suzuka, his best finish here only fourth in 2014.

As ever, Fernando Alonso is the only other active Japanese Grand Prix winner in the field, having won for Renault at both Suzuka (2006) and Fuji (2008). But for Alonso and McLaren Honda together, Suzuka’s been a site of agony the last two years, and the site of Alonso’s infamous “GP2 engine” radio transmission on the manufacturer’s home soil. Teammate Stoffel Vandoorne has been on excellent form of late with back-to-back seventh place finishes, and has experience in Japan from his time racing in Super Formula.

Here’s the F1 schedule, with stream links and TV network if applicable:

  • Practice 1: Thursday, Oct. 5, 9 p.m.-10:30 p.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Practice 2: Friday, Oct. 6, 1 a.m.-2:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Practice 3: Friday, Oct. 6, 11 p.m.-12 a.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Qualifying: Saturday, Oct. 7, 2 a.m.-3:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Pre-Race: Sunday, Oct. 8, 12 a.m.-1 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race: Sunday, Oct. 8, 1 a.m.-3 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Post-Race: Sunday, Oct. 8, 3 a.m.-3:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race (Replay): Sunday, Oct. 8, 9 p.m.-11 p.m. ET (NBCSN)

The next race is the United States Grand Prix, on October 22.

F2 AT JEREZ

Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Austria.
Saturday 8 July 2017
Charles Leclerc (MCO, PREMA Racing)
Photo: Mauger/FIA Formula 2
ref: Digital Image _56I3213

Formula 2’s lone standalone round of the season comes this weekend from Jerez in Spain, nearly 20 years on exactly from when the 1997 Formula 1 World Championship was decided in dramatic fashion after Michael Schumacher contacted Jacques Villeneuve at the Dry Sac corner, and Villeneuve won his first and only title on October 26, 1997.

A driver who could one day become an F1 World Champion, Monegasque star Charles Leclerc of Prema Racing, is poised to wrap the F2 title this weekend in Jerez, as he enters with a 59-point lead over Oliver Rowland.

Leclerc has won five times this season although hasn’t done so since Silverstone in July. He was disqualified at the Spa feature race after winning, following a technical infringement found in post-race inspection.

Both races will be streamed live via the NBC Sports App, with TV coverage occurring Saturday night, October 7 at 11 p.m. ET on NBCSN. This will be the lead-in to live Japanese Grand Prix race coverage on NBCSN at midnight ET.

F2 has this doubleheader race in Jerez, and then is off until the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend November 25-26, concluding its season along with F1.

Here’s the F2 schedule, with stream links and TV network if applicable:

  • Race 1: Saturday, Oct. 7, 8 a.m.-9:05 a.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Race 2: Sunday, Oct. 8, 8 a.m.-8:50 a.m. ET (Streaming)
  • TV coverage: Saturday, Oct. 7, 11 p.m.-12 a.m. ET (NBCSN)

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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