Getty Images

F1 United States Grand Prix on NBC, NBCSN, App this week

Leave a comment

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.

IMSA Prototype Season in Review

IMSA
Leave a comment

IMSA Wire Service

It was a year of change for the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda. The longtime sprint series evolved in 2018 to six one-hour, 45-minute endurance races that allowed teams to run single or two-driver combinations with a required minimum-time pit stop. The result: record-high car counts in the LMP3 class with Kris Wright ultimately winning the series championship for Extreme Speed Motorsports, while Cameron Cassels took home the LMP3 Masters title. In the MPC class, meanwhile, series veteran Jon Brownson won his first championship in the final season for the class with a breakthrough win one week ago in the season finale at Road Atlanta.

This season-in-review takes a look back at the path each of the three champions took on their way to history.

1. Daytona International Speedway, January 6

Winners
LMP3: Roman De Angelis, No. 4 ANSA Motorsports Ligier JS P3
LMP3 Masters: Gary Gibson, No. 44 Ave Motorsports Ave-Riley AR2
MPC: Robert Masson, No. 11 Performance Tech Motorsports Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
Not only was the season-opener during the Roar Before the Rolex 24 weekend the first endurance race for the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda, it also was the first race for the series at the iconic Daytona International Speedway. Wright, driving the No. 30 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier JS P3 scored his first podium of the season alongside co-driver Daniel Morad with a third-place finish behind Porsche GT3 Challenge driver and winner Roman De Angelis and co-drivers Austin McCusker and David Droux, finishing second for the upstart Forty7 Motorsports team. Masson scored the MPC win, lapping all but one car, while Brownson came home fifth.

2. Sebring International Raceway, March 16

Winners
LMP3: Leo Lamelas / Pato O’Ward, No. 7 Charles Wicht Racing Ligier JS P3
LMP3 Masters: James McGuire Jr., No. 26 K2R Motorsports Ligier JS P3
MPC: Dave House, No. 86 ONE Motorsports Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
The round at Sebring featured a late-race restart that saw eventual 2018 Indy Lights champion and 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype Challenge champion O’Ward drive from fourth to first in the closing laps to secure the win for full-time driver Lamelas. Wright, meanwhile, finished third for the second consecutive time to start the season with a new co-driver, Michael Whelden. The No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports entry again finished second with McCusker now joined by TJ Fischer, who would go on to run the full season with the team. Coming out of Sebring, McCusker would lead Wright by four points, 64-60. Between Sebring and the next round at Barber Motorsports Park, Wright would decide to contest the full season for Extreme Speed Motorsports.

It was a special victory in the MPC class with House becoming IMSA’s oldest race winner at the age of 75. Foreshadowing a points race that what would ultimately come down to the season finale at Road Atlanta, the top five in the MPC standings are separated by two points leaving Sebring, with Brownson seventh, 12 points out, after a ninth-place finish.

3. Barber Motorsports Park, April 21

Winners
LMP3: Kris Wright / Yann Clairay, No. 30 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier JS P3
LMP3 Masters: Rob Hodes, No. 51 K2R Motorsports Ligier JS P3
MPC: Michal Chlumecky, No. 31 Eurosport Racing Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
The only standalone event for the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda would prove to be the turning point in the LMP3 class. Leading all but one practice session on the weekend and starting the race from the pole, Wright and co-driver Clairay dominated the event, only losing the lead briefly on a cycle of green flag pit stops. Wright’s biggest competition for the championship, meanwhile, the No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports team, seemed poised to score its third consecutive runner-up finish of the season to hold onto the LMP3 points lead, but contact between Fischer and an MPC car with five minutes remaining relegated the team to a 16th-place finish. Entering the weekend down four points in the standings, Wright left Barber up six points, 95-89, over Lamelas.

Chlumecky scored his first MPC class win since 2012, while teammate Brownson, the Sebring pole winner, capped off a Eurosport Racing 1-2 finish placing second in the team’s No. 34 entry. Masson rounded out the podium with a third-place finish in the No. 11 Performance Tech Motorsports Elan DP02 to regain the class lead. Brownson left Barber eight points behind Masson, fifth in the standings.

4. Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, July 8

Winners
LMP3: Austin McCusker / TJ Fischer, No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports Norma M30
LMP3 Masters: Dean Baker, No. 4 ANSA Motorsports Ligier JS P3
MPC: Howard Jacobs / James French, No. 77 Performance Tech Motorsports Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
The long overdue first victory for Forty7 Motorsports finally came at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park for McCusker and Fischer, but a second-place finish for Wright meant McCusker could only gain three points on the series leader, with Wright keeping the deficit at 13 points. Dean Baker would score the LMP3 Masters win, the fourth winner in four races following Gibson at Daytona, McGuire Jr. at Sebring and Hodes at Barber. Cassels finished on the LMP3 Masters podium for the first time in 2018 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, finishing the race seventh overall and third in LMP3 Masters.

Leading the MPC standings coming into Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Robert Masson enlisted son and defending series champion Kyle Masson as a co-driver for the remainder of the season. The plan appeared to work with the duo crossing the line first, but upon post-race analysis of drive-time requirements, it was concluded that Kyle Masson did not record the minimum 40 minutes of drive time and the car was moved to the back of the MPC results. That penalty elevated Jacobs and French to the race win in Performance Tech’s No. 77 entry and moved Brownson, who finished second for the consecutive race, to the class championship lead. Coming out of Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, the top six in points were separated by just two points with two races remaining.

5. VIRginia International Raceway, August 18

Winners
LMP3: Kris Wright / Stephen Simpson, No. 30 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier JS P3
LMP3 Masters: Dean Baker, No. 4 ANSA Motorsports Ligier JS P3
MPC: Howard Jacobs / James French, No. 77 Performance Tech Motorsports Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
Wright enlisted IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship regular Stephen Simpson as co-driver at VIR and delivered a knockout punch in the LMP3 title fight, scoring the win and opening a 23-point lead over McCusker, who finished sixth. Baker would win his second consecutive race in LMP3 Masters with a second-place finish overall alongside Zacharie Robichon. Hodes would lead the LMP3 Masters points by two points over Jim Garrett, eight points over Cassels and nine points over Joel Janco.

Robert Masson seemed poised to take the points lead and win alongside Kyle Masson as the duo drove brilliantly in the rain, building a nearly one-lap lead. A mechanical issue with 17 minutes remaining, however, set up a late-race sprint to the finish with French winning on the last lap for Jacobs.

With only one race remaining, House moved into the class lead by three points, 143-140, over Jacobs. The top seven teams were mathematically eligible for the championship and separated by a mere eight points.

6. Road Atlanta, October 12

Winners
LMP3: Austin McCusker / TJ Fischer, No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports Norma M30
LMP3 Masters: Cameron Cassels, No. 75 Performance Tech Motorsports Ligier JS P3
MPC: Jon Brownson, No. 34 Eurosport Racing Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
The second win of the season for the No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports entry and co-driver McCusker and Fischer was not enough to take the championship away from Wright, who finished second at Road Atlanta to sweep podiums in all six races on the series schedule.

Cassels scored his first LMP3 Masters win of the season, and despite entering the weekend eight points behind in the standings, would also win the LMP3 Masters championship after each of the title contenders ran into various issues on-track.

Brownson called it an “honor” to win the final race for the MPC class. Brownson, who started in the first race for the series in 2006, scored his first win of the season in the No. 34 Eurosport Racing entry to win the final championship for the class.