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Future of Brazilian GP at Interlagos in doubt

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SAO PAULO (AP) The long-term future of the Brazilian Grand Prix is up in the air.

The Interlagos track, which hosted its first Formula One race in 1972, is due to be sold early next year. Although F1 has a contract through 2020, no one seems to know what will happen after that.

“The contract will be respected because it is an obligation of whoever buys the track,” said Sao Paulo Mayor Joao Doria, refusing to divulge who the buyers are. “We hope that afterward we are able to extend for another 10 years.”

Doria said the sale of Interlagos, which sits on an area of almost 1 million square meters, is “irreversible” and should happen in early 2018. The track is expected to be preserved after the sale, while apartment buildings will be added to the complex.

Sao Paulo city councilors, however, have argued that the real estate could be more profitable after privatization, and that could mean the end for a track that was inaugurated in 1940.

It is also unknown who the potential new owners are and what they think about the mayor’s project for post-privatization.

Some estimate the sale of the Interlagos track, which many consider a burden to taxpayers because it hasn’t been profitable in years, could raise up to $600 million.

Brazilian GP organizer Tamas Rohonyi said other venues could replace Interlagos in case the new owners fail to extend the contract with F1, but he did not provide details.

“What I am sure of is that without F1, Interlagos would be dead,” Rohonyi said. “And we just don’t know who will be at the table to discuss that.”

Rohonyi said he thinks the unknown new owners will want to keep F1 at Interlagos, while Formula One boss Chase Carey said “there is a great future for Brazil in F1.”

The Brazilian GP has struggled with low ratings at home and less money from sponsors in recent years. Next season, there will be no local driver in the grid for the first time since 1969, which could make Brazilians even less interested.

But tickets sales were brisk once again this year, despite little being at stake since Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton had already won the title.

Another issue at Interlagos is security, something that made headlines this year after members of the Mercedes team said they were mugged at gunpoint as they left track.

Doria said privatization will make the track safer and organizers more accountable.

WATCH LIVE: IndyCar practice and qualifying at Laguna Seca

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For the first time in 15 years, Indy cars will be racing at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, and the stakes have never been higher.

Tomorrow’s Grand Prix of Monterey is the final race of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season, and with four drivers mathematically eligible for the series championship, there will be plenty of story lines to follow.

Current series points leader Josef Newgarden enters this weekend with a 41-point lead over second-place Alexander Rossi.

A California native, Rossi attended his first IndyCar race with his father as child at Laguna Seca when he was three years old.

He now hopes to win his first IndyCar championship at the track where he fell in love with the sport, but after suffering a broken bolt in practice 1 yesterday, he will need to find speed in P3 and qualifying today in order to put himself in the best position to fight for the title.

Simon Pagenaud and Scott Dixon are also in contention to win the championship this weekend, and another title would only add to their already illustrious IndyCar careers.

Leigh Diffey, Paul Tracy and Townsend Bell will call today’s on-track action from the booth, while Marty Snider, Jon Beekhuis, Kevin Lee and Robin Miller will report from the pits.

Here is today’s schedule:

(All times are Eastern)

Saturday 9/21, 1 p.m. ET, IndyCar Practice 3, NBC Sports Gold 

Saturday 9/21, 4:30 p.m. ET, IndyCar Qualifying, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold

Saturday 9/21, 6 p.m. ET, Indy Lights Race 1, NBC Sports Gold 

 

For sessions on NBC Sports Gold, be sure to have your username and password handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.