Formula 1 kicks off its last back-to-back run of races this weekend with the sixth United States Grand Prix to be held at Circuit of The Americas in Austin this week, before the Mexican Grand Prix next week.
Expanded TV coverage comes this weekend on NBC, NBCSN and the NBC Sports App.
All sessions will air live. For Friday and Saturday sessions, free practice one live on NBCSN Friday at 11 a.m. ET, free practice two live on the NBC Sports App Friday at 3 p.m. ET (encore on NBCSN at 11 p.m. ET), free practice three live on the app Saturday at noon ET with an encore airing on NBCSN at 4 p.m. ET, leading straight into live qualifying at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN, followed by extended post-qualifying coverage.
On race day, live coverage begins with an hour pre-race occurs with F1 Countdown at 2 p.m. ET on NBC leading to lights out and the race at 3 p.m. ET. Post-race coverage continues on NBC from 5 p.m. ET.
Potentially, two World Championships could be clinched, as Lewis Hamilton has an outside shot to wrap up his fourth driver’s championship and Mercedes AMG Petronas has an excellent shot to secure its fourth straight constructor’s championship.
Hamilton can win the title by winning the race and hoping Sebastian Vettel is sixth or worse, or coming second and hope Vettel is ninth or worse. At a 59-point lead, Hamilton can wrap the title provided he leaves Austin with at least a 75-point lead.
The scenario is easier for Mercedes, which already holds a 145-point lead over Scuderia Ferrari and only needs a 129-point gap to clinch the title three races early.
Hamilton and the United States have a special relationship and so it’s shown in the six U.S. races he’s competed in over his career – he’s won five of them.
After a win in the last U.S. race at Indianapolis in 2007, he’s gone four-of-five at COTA with wins in 2012 (McLaren) and now the last three in a row with Mercedes (2014-2016). Only in 2013 was Hamilton off the podium, ending fourth. A sixth win in the U.S. would also make him the most successful F1 race winner in this country; he’s currently tied with Michael Schumacher on five wins in the U.S. apiece.
Vettel, who won that 2013 race with Red Bull, is the only other active U.S. Grand Prix winner in the field. After a nightmare Asian swing along with Ferrari, and having lost the win to Hamilton at Austin in dramatic circumstances in the late stages of 2012, he must have a trouble-free weekend if he’s to keep his remote title hopes alive. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen has had a horrible run of results at COTA, sixth with Lotus in 2012 before being injured in 2013, 13th in 2014 with Ferrari and retiring each of the last two U.S. races.
Red Bull Racing is on a roll with Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen both off back-to-back podiums, Verstappen having finally broken his hex of bad luck and unreliability with a famous win in Malaysia. Verstappen starred in the rain in Austin in 2015, coming fourth for Toro Rosso, as he looks for his first U.S. podium. Ricciardo has been an honorary American for years with his presence in California off-and-on, and has spoke lovingly of his appreciation for Austin and its barbecue.
Elsewhere Fernando Alonso races back on U.S. soil with the same helmet as he did for his Indianapolis 500, but his odds of success are longer with this McLaren Honda package. Teammate Stoffel Vandoorne has done well of late, though.
Then there’s three other drivers to monitor as Carlos Sainz Jr. makes his debut at Renault, and Toro Rosso switches up its lineup with Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race benching and Brendon Hartley making his surprise F1 debut in the second seat. A three-time FIA World Endurance Championship winner at COTA, Hartley is a Porsche factory driver who may well impress as the first New Zealander to race in F1 since Mike Thackwell in 1984.
Here’s the F1 schedule, with stream links and TV network if applicable:
- Practice 1: Friday, Oct. 20, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
- Practice 2: Friday, Oct. 20, 3 p.m.-4:30 p.m. ET (Streaming)
- Practice 2 (Replay): Friday, Oct. 20, 11 p.m.-12:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
- Practice 3: Saturday, Oct. 21, 12 p.m.-1 p.m. ET (Streaming)
- Practice 3 (Replay): Saturday, Oct. 21, 4 p.m.-5 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
- Qualifying: Saturday, Oct. 21, 5 p.m.-7 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
- Pre-Race: Sunday, Oct. 22, 2 p.m.-3 p.m. ET (NBC)
- Race: Sunday, Oct. 22, 3 p.m.-5 p.m. ET (NBC)
- Post-Race: Sunday, Oct. 22, 5 p.m.-6 p.m. ET (NBC)
- Race (Replay): Sunday, Oct. 22, 9 p.m.-11 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
The next race is the Mexican Grand Prix, on October 29.