Hulkenberg: Qualifying result will lift spirits at Sauber

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Nico Hulkenberg has made no secret of his happiness following a highly impressive display during qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza today, finishing a remarkable third behind both Red Bull drivers.

The German driver ran well throughout qualifying to get into Q3, but little more was expected from Sauber given that the team’s best grid position of the season until today was tenth. However, Hulkenberg rallied to post a blistering final lap time of 1:24.065 once the checkered flag had fallen to finish just three-tenths behind pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel and ahead of both Ferrari drivers.

“This was a nice surprise for all of us,” Hulkenberg explained. “I didn’t expect that after a very difficult Friday. Yesterday we struggled a lot with the  car and the guys have done a fantastic job turning it around to give me such a competitive car today.”

2013 has been a difficult year for Sauber, dogged by financial uncertainty and lacklustre results on track. However, Hulkenberg is confident that this result will give the team something to cheer about.

“It is a highlight for the whole team. Such a result will lift our spirits.

“During qualifying the car just got better and better and the track improved as well. We made the right decision to go for one timed lap in Q3 and then this happened. I hope the long run pace is good tomorrow. A big thank you to the whole team and everyone in Hinwil, who have been working hard and have never given up in this difficult year.”

From P3, Hulkenberg will be hoping to add to his tally of seven points in the drivers’ championship for 2013, with rumors suggesting that he could be in the running for Felipe Massa’s seat at Ferrari should the Italian marque opt to drop the Brazilian driver.

Al Unser Jr. back in IndyCar after a decade away: ‘Life is very good’

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There’s been somewhat of a hole in Al Unser Jr.’s heart ever since he retired from racing in 2007.

It was a void, something was missing.

But now, after a decade away from racing, Unser has found the right medicine to fill that hole in his heart: he’s back in the racing game again.

No, he’s not driving again (although he does participate occasionally in vintage races), but the two-time Indianapolis 500 (1992 and 1994) winner is definitely back in the IndyCar world.

And he couldn’t be happier.

“For me, it’s a dream come true,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “Since I stepped out of the race car and retired from racing, there’s been something missing from my life, and it’s racing.”

Unser has hooked up with Harding Racing. The team competed in three races last season as a ramp-up for a full 17-race effort this season. While Unser’s official title with the team is “consultant,” he’s involved in so much more.

His main role is as a driving coach to 2015 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves. But he’s also involved in so many other areas, including helping the team obtain sponsorships and much more.

He then added, “I’m involved in every sense of the word except actually driving the car. And I’m happy about that because I’m too old to drive the car.”

Unser, who won CART championships in 1990 and 1994, is now 55. He’s so involved with his new job that he even moved from his native New Mexico and has relocated to suburban Indianapolis.

Not only is it a new start for Unser, it also is for Chaves. After running all 16 races in 2015 for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, he competed in just seven races for Dale Coyne Racing in 2016 and only three races for Harding Racing last season.

But he definitely impressed the team, with a fifth- (Texas) and ninth-place (Indianapolis 500) finish in the first two races and 15th (Pocono) in the team’s final run of the season.

That’s why when Harding Racing decided to go fulltime in 2018, Chaves was their pick for behind the wheel. And Unser was their pick to help guide him to potential stardom in the series.

“(Team owner) Mike Harding is definitely a person that when he decides to do something, he does it right,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “The potential for this organization is through the sky. We’re all working really hard here and we see the potential.”

And as for Unser?

“Life is good, life is very good,” he told IndyCar.com. “We’re back full force, eager and better than ever.”

Click here for the full story about Unser from IndyCar.com.