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

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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.

MRTI: Toronto digest

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Last year’s visit to the streets of Toronto for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires proved to be a pivotal point in the championship chase that year.

Kyle Kaiser swept both races in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, and doing so gave him firm control over the championship, and he all but clinched it ahead of the season finale at Watkins Glen – Kaiser needed to only start that event to wrap up the title.

And in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, while Parker Thompson swept the weekend, Oliver Askew was caught up in a crash in Race 2. Combine that with a second place finish from 2017 title rival Rinus VeeKay – VeeKay also finished third in Race 1 – and it kept the championship within reach of VeeKay, who took it all the way to the finale at The Glen.

The 2018 visit north of the border will likely be remembered for a similar impact on the MRTI championships, both in Indy Lights and USF2000 and, maybe most significantly, in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.

A look at big stories to emerge from a wild weekend on the streets of Toronto is below.

Indy Lights

Santi Urrutia scored a much needed win in Race 2 on the streets of Toronto. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • Santi Urrutia’s championship hopes were teetering entering the weekend – he was 49 points out of the lead and had been vastly overshadowed by title combatants Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta for most of the season. But, his Race 2 victory combined with a second place in Race 1 to close him to within 40 points of O’Ward for the championship lead. He’s still a bit of a long shot, but his chances look much brighter leaving Toronto than they did entering.
  • More significantly, Colton Herta’s title hopes may have taken an enormous hit. After crashing in Race 1 qualifying, just after grabbing the pole as well, Herta suffered a thumb fracture that he aggravated again after crashing during Race 1. It forced the team to recommend Herta essentially sit out Race 2 – he pulled off after running only a couple laps and finished sixth – and he dropped to 18 points behind O’Ward, who won Race 1 and finished second in Race 2. The margin is hardly a commanding one for O’Ward, but with the next stop at the ultra-physical Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Herta’s injured hand could remain a factor in the coming races and allow O’Ward to widen the margin.
  • One can’t help but feel bad for Victor Franzoni. Coming off the high of winning his first Indy Lights Race at Road America, Franzoni’s season took a turn for the worse. He crashed in Race 1 and then pulled off in Race 2 in order to conserve finances and resources – Franzoni detailed afterward that the budget is tight for him this year and crash damage from Race 1 does him no good. It would be a genuine shame if Franzoni’s season was derailed by funding issues, as the likeable Brazilian has made great progress all year and has the potential to make it as a Verizon IndyCar Series driver. He just needs the backing to get there.

Pro Mazda

Rinus VeeKay now trails Parker Thompson by only seven points in the Pro Mazda championship. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • No Mazda Road to Indy Championship was shaken up as much as Pro Mazda. Parker Thompson entered the weekend with a sizeable lead of 46 points over Rinus VeeKay. He exits the weekend only seven points ahead after finishes of eighth in both races – he was involved in a crash in Race 1 and made an unscheduled pit stop after thinking he suffered suspension damage in Race 2. Meanwhile, VeeKay dominated the weekend, winning from the pole in both races. It all means that what was once looking like a possible runaway has been all but reset. And we might see a genuine duel between them all the way to the season finale at Portland International Raceway.
  • There are few words to describe the relief everyone felt in seeing Harrison Scott walk away unhurt after his frightening airborne crash in Race 1. This was the first major crash test in a race for the Tatuus PM-18, and it aced it. And big kudos should also be given to the AMR Safety Team, who were already tending to Scott barely a few seconds after his car had come to a rest. Scott did start Race 2, but pulled off with a mechanical problem…which seems minor in comparison to what could have happened in Race 1.
  • Oliver Askew had his best race of the year in Race 2, finishing second to VeeKay for his second podium of the season. It’s been a tough year for Askew and Cape Motorsports after winning last year’s USF2000 title, and getting a podium under their belt could be just what they needed heading into the season’s stretch run.

USF2000

Kyle Kirkwood continued his USF2000 dominance on the streets of Toronto. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • After another weekend sweep, Kyle Kirkwood has one hand on the USF2000 championship. He leads Kaylen Frederick by a staggering 131 points – that’s over four road course races worth of points. He may well leave Mid-Ohio as the USF2000 champion. And even if he doesn’t, it would take something unheard of to keep the championship from his grasp.
  • Kaylen Frederick sits second, only three points up on Igor Fraga. Fraga had his best race since Race 2 on the streets of St. Petersburg, when he finished second, and he nearly outdueled Kirkwood for the win in Race 2. Both he and Frederick have caught fire of late, and their battle for second is very evenly matched.
  • Don’t count out Rasmus Lindh in the battle for second in the championship either. The Swedish driver is seven points behind Frederick and scored his third podium of the year by finishing third in Race 2 at Toronto. Second is well within his reach.

The Mazda Road to Indy is off this weekend before heading to Mid-Ohio, where Indy Lights and USF2000 again have double headers, while Pro Mazda will enjoy a triple header.

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