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What to watch for: Mexican GP (NBC, NBC Sports app from 2:30pm ET)

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Lewis Hamilton looks poised to be crowned Formula 1 world champion for a fourth time on Sunday, requiring only a top-five finish to clinch the title at the Mexican Grand Prix (NBC, NBC Sports app from 2:30pm ET).

MEXICO F1 LIVE STREAM

Five wins in the last six races and a collapse from Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel has seen Hamilton move into a commanding position at the top of the drivers’ championship, leading by 66 points.

So long as his advantage is at least 50 by the checkered flag in Mexico City, Hamilton will become just the fifth driver in F1 history to have four titles to his name.

While the result seems a formality given Hamilton starts third on the grid and in light of his recent form, there are still a number of big storylines that are poised to play out in Mexico on Sunday.

You can watch the Mexican Grand Prix live on NBC and the NBC Sports app from 2:30pm ET on Sunday. CLICK HERE to watch via live stream.

2017 Mexican Grand Prix – What to watch for

Hamilton out to win in style in Mexico

Lewis Hamilton may only require a top-five finish to clinch his fourth F1 world title on Sunday, yet the Briton is keen to seal the deal in style by taking his 10th victory of the year.

Hamilton lagged behind Vettel and Max Verstappen in qualifying on Saturday, taking P3 on the grid, but was confident about Mercedes’ long-run pace after an impressive outing in Friday’s practice sessions.

The podium and atmosphere in Mexico are among the most unique of the season, making it a perfect place for Hamilton to be coronated. Doing so in parc ferme will be a little more underwhelming, though.

Vettel, Ferrari seek late-season boost

Sebastian Vettel may be set to suffer just the second title-race defeat of his F1 career (after 2009) on Sunday, yet the German remains fully-focused on giving Ferrari a boost after a rough patch with victory in Mexico.

The high-altitude nature of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez – some 2,200 meters above sea level – means all teams can run with high-downforce setups, playing into the hands of Ferrari, which has already won at similar tracks in Monaco and Hungary.

Vettel’s title hopes may be all but over, but a win here would do wonders to stop the rut and ease some of the pressure on those at Maranello.

Will Verstappen be in the picture?

Max Verstappen almost made F1 history on Saturday, coming within one-tenth of a second of becoming the sport’s youngest-ever pole-sitter, only for Vettel’s stunning final lap in Q3 to deny him in the last moments of the session.

Nevertheless, much as the high-downforce setup required in Mexico has played to Ferrari’s advantage, so it also has for Red Bull. The RB13 car has gone well on high-downforce tracks this year, with Verstappen taking an impressive win in Malaysia, putting him in the frame in the fight at the front.

The start-line drama in Singapore will lead to questions about how both Vettel and Verstappen will handle the long run down to Turn 1, yet both will know this race represents a golden chance for victory.

Perez aims for big result at home

Sergio Perez has been the star figure through the Mexican Grand Prix weekend, flying the flag on home soil, but a poor lap in qualifying left him P10 overall in qualifying.

The result left Perez disappointed, yet all eyes will still be on him to impress on Sunday on a weekend that has seen Mexico come together and show its strength just one month after the earthquake that hit its capital.

The race should be a straightforward one-stop, but Perez’s knack for good tire management could put him in the pound seat to lead the midfield fight should there be any drama ahead.

Force India’s hunt for that elusive podium this year shows few signs of a resolution soon, but if it were to come anywhere, Mexico would surely be the perfect place for it.

Alonso and McLaren ready to fight from the back

One of the biggest surprises of qualifying came courtesy of Fernando Alonso in Q1 as the Spaniard finished fifth-fastest, as well as turning in the best time through the middle sector.

Alonso has played up the true pace of McLaren’s MCL32 car throughout the season, and went as far as saying it was the best in the field after qualifying such was his pace early on.

Grid penalties meant Alonso was always set to fall back, making a pace run in Q2 pointless, but the signs from the team are positive, making his movement on Sunday worth keeping an eye on.

2017 Mexican Grand Prix – Starting Grid

1. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari
2. Max Verstappen Red Bull
3. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
4. Valtteri Bottas Mercedes
5. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
6. Esteban Ocon Force India
7. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
8. Nico Hulkenberg Renault
9. Carlos Sainz Jr. Renault
10. Sergio Perez Force India
11. Felipe Massa Williams
12. Lance Stroll Williams
13. Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso
14. Marcus Ericsson Sauber
15. Pascal Wehrlein Sauber
16. Kevin Magnussen Haas
17. Romain Grosjean Haas
18. Fernando Alonso McLaren*
19. Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren*
20. Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso*

Indianapolis Motor Speedway can have 10,000 fans for IndyCar races

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have crowds for its NTT IndyCar Series race weekend next month, the first time fans are allowed at the track this year.

The track announced Friday that up to 10,000 fans will be allowed in the grandstands daily from Oct. 1-4. The IndyCar Harvest GP race doubleheader will be held on the track’s road course Oct. 2-3.

IMS has played host to several events this year without fans, including the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 and a NASCAR-IndyCar weekend July 4-5 that included the Brickyard 400. Plans originally were made to have fans at the Indy 500 before reversing course a few weeks ahead of the race. In a letter last month, Roger Penske vowed that fans would return for the 2021 Indy 500.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS president Doug Boles said in a release. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

Fans will undergo temperature screenings upon entry and also be required to wear face coverings at all times on property. The track said each attendee will receive a mask and bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Friday, Oct. 2 race will be shown at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA, and NBC will broadcast the Saturday, Oct. 3 race at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.

Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.

This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.

Fans also will see a host of facility improvements during the event weekend, including more than 30 new LED video boards, refreshed concession stands and restrooms, and 5G wireless connectivity throughout the facility.

The first race will air at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 2 on the USA Network. NBC will broadcast the second race at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Oct. 3, with WTHR-13 airing the action live in Central Indiana.

Also racing that weekend will be the first pairing of two major sports car series — the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held Sunday, Oct. 4.

The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.

The full on-track schedule is available at IMS.com.