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F1 Preview: 2017 Mexican Grand Prix

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Since returning to the Formula 1 calendar in 2015, the Mexican Grand Prix has established itself as one of the highlight races of the season due to its buzzing, unique atmosphere and party vibe.

This weekend is likely to see festivities reach a new height as Lewis Hamilton prepares to be crowned F1 world champion for a fourth time, needing only a top-five finish to reclaim the crown he lost to Nico Rosberg last year.

Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel knows he must win all of the final three races to stand any chance of denying Hamilton a fourth crown, having seen his team capitulate in both title races over the last two months.

With all of the signs pointing to a Hamilton coronation, Sunday’s race in Mexico City is likely to be one that goes down in F1 history.

Here are the key talking points heading into the Mexican Grand Prix weekend.

2017 Mexican Grand Prix – Talking Points

How will Hamilton be crowned champion?

Lewis Hamilton’s 66-point advantage means the question is when, not if, he will be crowned world champion for a fourth time and move clear as the most successful British driver in F1 history.

A top-five finish will do the job for Hamilton at any of the final three races, but his recent form – five wins in the last six races – suggests it will be in Mexico on Sunday.

Hamilton has finished outside of the top five just once this season, taking P7 at Monaco after dropping out in Q2 on Saturday, and Mercedes’ reliability has been near-bulletproof through this year. Naturally, though, there is a first time for everything…

The unique nature of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez being some 2,200 meters above sea level means teams can run high-downforce setups with big wings, theoretically playing into the hands of both Ferrari and Red Bull.

Alas, even if Mercedes were firmly the third-fastest team in Mexico, you could count on Hamilton to be the leading Silver Arrow to cross the line in fifth behind the pairs of Ferraris and Red Bulls ahead.

Hamilton isn’t one to seal the deal by doing just enough though – he wants to win this title in style. Even if a win is not forthcoming, for the sake of the celebrations, a podium finish would be fitting as a way to clinch the title so he can appear in front of the passionate Mexican crowd packing out the Foro Sol stadium section.

Ferrari, Red Bull look for late-season success

The titles may have been pretty much settled, but there are still 75 points and three race wins up for grabs before the end of the season, giving Ferrari and Red Bull the chance to finish on a high and take the fight to Mercedes up front.

All three of the remaining circuits hold possibilities for the chasing teams, with the high-downforce requirements for Mexico and Abu Dhabi, in particular, playing to their strengths.

Malaysia proved that both teams are capable of getting an edge over Mercedes on merit, even if we were robbed of a straight fight between Red Bull and Ferrari at Sepang due to the latter’s reliability issues.

One year on from the fraught battle between the two teams to complete the podium, could they be going toe-to-toe for the top step this year?

Hartley aims to build on solid debut

The news that Toro Rosso had elected to stick with Porsche LMP1 driver Brendon Hartley until the end of the season and dump Daniil Kvyat for good may have not been surprising, yet it was nevertheless highly significant when it comes to the 2018 driver market.

Hartley’s planned one-off appearance saw him put in a solid display en route to P13 in his first single-seater race for five years, and the New Zealander will be aiming to build upon that this weekend.

Just as at the Circuit of The Americas, Hartley will be racing on a track he knows this weekend from his FIA World Endurance Championship duties, but now has the added experience of being in a car he knows.

His selection of a permanent number (No. 28) and Ed Jones’ signing for Chip Ganassi Racing in the Verizon IndyCar Series – a seat Hartley was nailed on for – all points to an extended future for Hartley with Toro Rosso.

Nevertheless, he’ll be keen to impress once again this weekend in Mexico.

Can Renault continue its climb?

Much as F1 will be hitting new altitudes this weekend in Mexico, Renault will be aiming to do the same in the constructors’ championship as it breathes fresh life into its season following Carlos Sainz Jr.’s arrival.

Sainz took to his new Renault R.S.17 car like a duck to water on debut in Austin, charging to P7 in the race to lift the French manufacturer above Haas in the constructors’ standings.

Renault has been developing rapidly this season, meaning its pre-season target of P5 is still not out of reach with three races to go.

Next on the team’s hit-list is Toro Rosso, just five points ahead in sixth, and given the Red Bull B-squad will be fielding a line-up with a combined three races worth of experience, Renault will fancy its chances of getting the jump by the season’s end.

The fight for the midfield positions may not be of great interest to the casual fan, yet for the team’s involved, there are millions of dollars in prize money up for grabs.

Fuerza Mexico

This year’s Mexican Grand Prix may be signifcant for F1 in terms of the title race, but it holds a far greater meaning for the people of Mexico City, coming just over one month since the devastating earthquake that claimed 370 lives and levelled a number of buildings.

The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez was unharmed by the earthquake, meaning the race could go ahead as planned, and it will be a sign of strength from Mexico City as over 300,000 fans pack out the grandstands.

Sergio Perez will be flying the flag on home soil once again, having enjoyed another strong year with Force India through 2017, and fans attending the race will dare to dream of a popular podium finish in a nation with a rich motorsport history.

NBCSN’s Will Buxton and Jason Swales headed to Mexico City earlier this year to get a flavor of the city and explore the nation’s racing heart. You can watch the film they produced here.

2017 Mexican Grand Prix – Facts and Figures

Track: Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez
Corners: 17
Lap Record: Nico Rosberg 1:20.521 (2015)
Tire Compounds: Ultra-Soft/Super-Soft/Soft
2016 Winner: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2016 Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:18.704
2016 Fastest Lap: Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 1:21.134
DRS Zones: T17 to T1, T3 to T4

2017 Mexican Grand Prix – TV/Stream Times

NHRA: Pritchett, C. Force, Kramer, Krawiec all No. 1 going into Denver eliminations

Leah Pritchett was one of the four no. 1 qualifiers. Photos and videos: NHRA
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NHRA Media Release

MORRISON, Colo. – Leah Pritchett raced to her third No. 1 qualifying position of the season at the Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals and set the Top Fuel track speed record during her final qualifying pass on Saturday at Bandimere Speedway.

Courtney Force (Funny Car), Deric Kramer (Pro Stock), and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the 14th of 24 events on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Pritchett earned her second consecutive No. 1 with a run of 3.799-seconds at 327.19 mph in her Mopar Dodge 1320 dragster as she prepares for Terry Totten in eliminations. This is her 10th career No. 1, she has one win this season, one runner-up finish and is fourth in points. She was the No. 1 qualifier at this event last season and raced to a runner-up finish.

“We were putting the coals to it for sure, licking our chops,” said Pritchett. “We are on the mountain and this is our sponsor’s race, and we are giving it everything we got. We got a new front half on our dragster and I’m sure glad we did. About halftrack I wasn’t sure if the front wheels were on the ground that thing was dancing, dancing, and dancing. I knew we were cooking it and getting it.”

Brittany Force qualified second and will face Jim Maroney and points leader Steve Torrence is third and will race Bill Litton.

In Funny Car, Courtney Force was able to improve on her qualifying from Friday night and earned her ninth No. 1 of the season in her final pass of the evening with a run of 3.949 at 309.91 in her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro. She is the currents points leader and will face Terry Haddock in the first round.

“It felt awesome and we had nothing to lose,” said Force. “We were watching the cars ahead of us and knew that it would be my dad to take us out of the top spot or we would improve. It was a solid pass for us and we picked up a number of bonus points.”

Kramer, a resident of Sterling, Colo., earned his first No. 1 qualifying position at his home track of Bandimere Speedway with his pass of 6.929 at 197.57 during the final qualifying session in his American Ethanol Chevrolet Camaro. This is his third No. 1 of the season, his last coming in Topeka where he parlayed it to his first national event victory. He will square off against Alan Prusiensky in eliminations.

“It is a great feeling coming at your home track and doing as good as we did today,” said Kramer. “I have a ton a laps here so I feel that probably helped a little bit. It was a lot of fun and something that I will remember for a long time.”

Greg Anderson, who is searching for his first win of the season, is second with his run of 6.930 at 196.70 and will face Joey Grose, while points leader Erica Enders is eighth and will face Chris McGaha.

Krawiec earned his first No. 1 qualifying position of the season and 40th of his career on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson with his run of 7.111 at 187.03 during the first session on Saturday. His elapsed time bettered the track record he set during qualifying on Friday. Krawiec has three wins on the season and is the current points leader. He will face Karen Stoffer in the first round on Sunday.

“I got a good bike and we went .711 both laps today and I think that is something to say about how good the program is being very consistent,” said Krawiec. “It makes me feel comfortable going into raceday, we have a good setup for both lanes no matter what, and I have a very consistent motorcycle.”

Hector Arana Jr. qualified second and will face Ryan Oehler and Andrew Hines is third matching up with Joey Gladstone.

Eliminations begin at 11:00 a.m. ET on Sunday at Bandimere Speedway.

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MORRISON, Colo. — Sunday’s first-round pairings for eliminations for the 39th annual Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway, the 14th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.

TOP FUEL: 1. Leah Pritchett, 3.799 seconds, 327.19 mph vs. 16. Terry Totten, 4.449, 216.13; 2. Brittany Force, 3.808, 321.50 vs. 15. Jim Maroney, 4.295, 261.88; 3. Steve Torrence, 3.811, 325.45 vs. 14. Bill Litton, 4.283, 218.65; 4. Clay Millican, 3.814, 326.71 vs. 13. Greg Carrillo, 4.129, 307.65; 5. Richie Crampton, 3.822, 318.09 vs. 12. Terry McMillen, 3.995, 301.67; 6. Blake Alexander, 3.834, 326.32 vs. 11. Mike Salinas, 3.865, 272.12; 7. Tony Schumacher, 3.834, 325.37 vs. 10. Doug Kalitta, 3.862, 310.91; 8. Antron Brown, 3.856, 318.47 vs. 9. Scott Palmer, 3.860, 317.27.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.949, 322.73 vs. 16. Terry Haddock, Toyota Solara, 4.466, 278.46; 2. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.973, 316.67 vs. 15. Todd Simpson, Charger, 4.462, 270.81; 3. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.986, 321.58 vs. 14. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Camry, 4.287, 272.50; 4. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.992, 318.32 vs. 13. Jonnie Lindberg, Ford Mustang, 4.197, 302.08; 5. John Force, Camaro, 3.993, 322.27 vs. 12. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.093, 310.55; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.003, 312.42 vs. 11. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.087, 306.74; 7. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.007, 320.81 vs. 10. J.R. Todd, Camry, 4.083, 305.01; 8. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 4.048, 316.15 vs. 9. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.056, 293.41. Did Not Qualify: 17. Jim Campbell, 5.271, 149.07.

PRO STOCK: 1. Deric Kramer, Chevy Camaro, 6.929, 197.68 vs. 16. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 20.336, 65.35; 2. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.930, 197.19 vs. 15. Joey Grose, Camaro, 10.066, 94.07; 3. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.932, 197.10 vs. 14. Will Hatcher, Dart, 7.142, 191.87; 4. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.937, 198.12 vs. 13. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.978, 196.99; 5. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.937, 196.90 vs. 12. Fernando Cuadra, Camaro, 6.971, 196.93; 6. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.942, 197.57 vs. 11. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.962, 197.16; 7. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.943, 197.13 vs. 10. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.957, 196.82; 8. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.950, 196.96 vs. 9. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.953, 196.67.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 7.111, 187.81 vs. 16. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.310, 182.11; 2. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 7.135, 188.86 vs. 15. Ryan Oehler, Buell, 7.306, 183.57; 3. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 7.146, 188.04 vs. 14. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 7.288, 182.45; 4. Matt Smith, Victory, 7.158, 185.54 vs. 13. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.261, 182.95; 5. Hector Arana, Buell, 7.207, 185.77 vs. 12. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 7.259, 183.05; 6. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 7.220, 183.87 vs. 11. Angie Smith, Buell, 7.243, 181.69; 7. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 7.230, 184.95 vs. 10. Angelle Sampey, Buell, 7.243, 185.46; 8. Cory Reed, Buell, 7.230, 184.60 vs. 9. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.234, 185.61. Did Not Qualify: 17. Kelly Clontz, 7.382, 180.69.