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What to watch for: Brazilian GP (NBCSN, NBC Sports app from 10am ET)

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Both Formula 1 championships may have already been settled for 2017, but there is still plenty to play for at Interlagos on Sunday in the Brazilian Grand Prix (NBCSN, NBC Sports app from 10am ET).

BRAZIL F1 LIVE STREAM

An uncharacteristic error from Lewis Hamilton saw the recently-crowned four-time F1 world champion crash out early in qualifying, resigning him to a pit lane start on Sunday.

It was left to Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas to pick up the mantle and charge to his third F1 pole, edging out Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel with a last-gasp lap in Q3.

With Hamilton fighting his way through the field and the likes of Bottas, Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen all poised to scrap for victory, the stage is set for a thrilling race in Brazil.

You can watch the Brazilian Grand Prix live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 10am ET on Sunday. CLICK HERE to watch via live stream.

Here’s what to watch for in today’s race.

2017 Brazilian Grand Prix – What to watch for

Bottas, Vettel seek to end barren run

Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel’s fight for pole in Brazil was a thriller, with just 0.038 seconds separating the pair come the checkered flag in Q3.

Both drivers are in need of a big result in the race, with neither having won since July as their championship bids fell apart, allowing Lewis Hamilton to stream clear at the top of the championship standings.

Mercedes and Ferrari both looked strong through the long runs in practice on Friday, meaning we should be set for a close fight at the front. A straightforward one-stop race is expected, so barring any out-of-the-norm incidents, it may descend into a real dogfight for victory.

How far can Hamilton make his way up the order?

Hamilton’s Q1 crash came as a big surprise to the F1 paddock, acting as the Briton’s first major error in what has otherwise been arguably his most impressive season in the sport to date.

The shunt left his Mercedes car with a sizeable amount of damage, with the team confirming it would be starting Hamilton from the pit lane so it could make a number of changes, including fitting a new power unit, requiring a breach in parc ferme conditions.

With a fresh power unit in the car that needs to only complete two races, Hamilton can turn things up and push hard in his fightback, making a top-five finish definitely within reach.

But could he go even further than that, and capture a remarkable result to cap off a remarkable season?

Red Bull left to think outside the box

Red Bull has arguably been the team to beat in F1 recently, with Max Verstappen’s emphatic victories in Malaysia and Mexico breathing fresh life into the team’s season.

Despite high hopes heading to Brazil, Red Bull has found itself struggling to match the likes of Mercedes and Ferrari for pace, with Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo taking P4 and P5 in qualifying.

Verstappen will need to do all he can to try and produce a display akin to his stunning charge at Interlagos last year, with the Red Bull RB13 car seemingly not up to the task in Brazil over the long-runs.

Ricciardo faces an even greater task, starting 14th on the grid following a penalty for an engine change. Look for how he fares compared to Hamilton when rising up the field.

Can Force India or McLaren deliver a shock result?

With Hamilton’s crash and Ricciardo’s penalty, the midfield runners were given the opportunity to break into the ordinarily impenetrable front three rows of the grid in Brazil, with Force India and McLaren being up to the task.

After seeing their teammates drop out in Q2, Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso were able to turn in remarkable displays to secure P5 and P6 on the grid respectively, leading the close-knit midfield runners.

Perez has been chasing a breakthrough podium for Force India all year long, while Alonso stands a good chance of bagging a good haul of points, even if he is 16 km/h slower on the straights than the pace-setters.

Can Alonso produce a flying start like he did in Singapore to give McLaren-Honda a boost at the end of a rough season?

2017 Brazilian Grand Prix – Starting Grid

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

Could Scott Dixon someday break Foyt, Andretti wins and championships records?

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With five races left in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season, Scott Dixon is in the driver’s seat to potentially earn a fifth career IndyCar championship.

After winning Sunday at Toronto, Dixon now has a 62-point edge over second-ranked and defending series champ Josef Newgarden and a 70-point lead over third-ranked Alexander Rossi.

The triumph north of the border was Dixon’s third there, as well as his 44th career IndyCar win, third-highest in IndyCar annals.

Add in the four IndyCar championships and those are stellar numbers indeed.

What makes things all the more amazing is Dixon has done all that in under 18 full seasons on the IndyCar circuit. Heck, he’s only 37 years old, too (although he turns 38 on July 22).

Dixon’s championships have come in 2003 (his first full season in IndyCar after two prior seasons in CART/Champ Car), 2008, 2013 and most recently in 2015.

The quiet, unassuming New Zealander has been one of the most successful drivers ever not just in IndyCar, but in all forms of motorsports.

When his name is mentioned, it’s typically included with the only two drivers who have more career wins than he does: A.J. Foyt (67 wins and seven championships, both records) and Mario Andretti (52 wins and four titles).

That’s a pretty lofty pair to be part of.

One might think that after all the success he’s had, Dixon could easily walk away from IndyCar and Chip Ganassi Racing and enjoy an early retirement.

But competing in and winning races isn’t really a job for Dixon. He enjoys what he’s doing so much that he easily could keep doing what he’s doing – and at a high level – for another seven or more years, at least.

So, can Dixon catch Mario and A.J.? The former would be easier than the latter, for sure.

Numerically, it’s possible – at least part of it:

* Dixon can easily be competitive into his mid-40s.

* He’s averaged three-plus wins every season since 2007 (37 wins from then through Sunday). That means if he can keep that average going, he could reach 24 more wins – to overtake Foyt – by 2026. Yes, that may be a stretch to even imagine, but if there’s any current driver who potentially could overtake Foyt, it’s Dixon.

* Dixon already has three wins this season, and with five more races still to go, he could easily win another one, two or maybe even three more in 2018 as he continues his road to the championship. And let’s not forget that with each additional win, that’s one win closer to overtaking Andretti and Foyt.

In his usual modest and humble manner, Dixon downplays not just talk comparing him with Andretti and Foyt, but also overtaking one or both.

“I think A.J. is pretty safe,” he said. “He’s a long ways ahead. … Eight (championships) is an infinity away. Takes a long time to get eight.”

But that doesn’t mean Dixon can’t keep working at approaching Foyt’s mark.

“I think for us, we take it race by race,” he said. “We’re in the business of winning races. If we’re not doing that, I won’t have a job for too long. That’s the focus for right now.”

If he wins the championship this year, he’ll pass Andretti’s championship mark. That would be one record down, three to go.

And if he can win nine more races over the next few seasons, he’ll pass Andretti’s 52 career wins, making it two records down and two more to go.

“Right now with 44 wins, next on the list is Mario I think at 52 or something,” Dixon said after Sunday’s win. “We’ll see how it goes. Right now, we’re just trying to get the job done for the team.”

And he’s doing a darn good job at that indeed – with likely even more success still to come.

Follow @JerryBonkowski