Marco Andretti: “I need to be consistently better”

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Marco Andretti has done good in the first two races of the IZOD IndyCar Series season, collecting a podium finish in the opener at St. Petersburg and a Top-10 finish in the most recent race at Barber Motorsports Park. But with Andretti Autosport teammates James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay winning those events, the third-generation racer seems to figure that “good” is not good enough.

“I really worked on consistency in the off-season so it’s a decent start to that. But when I look at two of my teammates who have won the first two races, I need to be consistently better,” Andretti said to reporters at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. “I think if we keep knocking on the door like we have been…Like even last weekend, we had another good shot at another podium, but we lost a lot of time coming out behind another car. We’ve been driving good, so we have to keep doing that.”

Andretti will look to continue the momentum at Long Beach, where his grandfather Mario and father/team owner Michael notched a combined five victories during their driving careers. However, he himself has not had as much success at the Beach. His highest finish there so far is a sixth-place result from 2009, and his last two Beach starts each ended with a DNF.

But coming out of the gate strong this year has him feeling confident, and despite winding up 17th on the combined time sheets in Friday’s practice sessions, he believes he and his No. 25 team are on the right track.

“There is still a lot of speed out there for us to find, and I am feeling optimistic thinking about our potential heading into tomorrow’s [pre-qualifying] practice,” he said. “Today, we tried a lot of different things, but set-ups are always a tricky thing to figure out. It’s great that the track is pretty similar to a year ago, so we can definitely put something together that will keep us competitive this weekend.”

Hartley to make F1 debut from back of grid after penalty

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Brendon Hartley’s hopes of a points finish on his Formula 1 debut took a hit on Friday after the FIA confirmed the Toro Rosso driver will start the United States Grand Prix from the back of the grid due to an engine penalty.

Porsche factory driver and 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Hartley was drafted in by Toro Rosso as a surprise replacement for Pierre Gasly in Austin, with the Frenchman tied up with Super Formula duties at Suzuka this weekend.

Hartley took to the track in an official grand prix session for the first time on Friday in Austin, marking his first run-out in an F1 car since a test with Mercedes in 20120.

However, FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer confirmed in his pre-race report that changes had been made to the power unit on Hartley’s Toro Rosso car since the last race in Japan, triggering a grid penalty.

Toro Rosso elected to take a new internal combustion engine, MGU-H, energy store and control electronics on Hartley’s Renault power unit, totaling a 25-place grid drop that will be applied after qualifying. Confirmation of the penalty is set to follow later today.

The penalty comes as a setback for Hartley, but was necessary as Toro Rosso found itself short on engine elements to get to the end of the season.

Hartley is not the only driver to have a penalty confirmed, with Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne also taking new engine elements, also confirmed in Bauer’s report.

A new ICE, turbocharger and MGU-H for Hulkenberg will see him drop 20 places on the grid, while an eighth ICE of the year for Vandoorne will trigger a five-place drop.