Sauber’s Hulkenberg bracing for “close battle” with McLaren

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After qualifying seventh today for Sunday’s Airtel Indian Grand Prix (LIVE, 5 a.m. ET on NBCSN/NBC Sports Live Extra), Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg said he expects to have a “close battle” with the twin McLarens of Sergio Perez (qualified ninth) and Jenson Button (qualified tenth) in the opening stages of the race.

Both sides took opposite strategies in qualifying, with Hulkenberg using the soft compound and both Perez and Button using the harder medium compound.

“It will be interesting to see who comes out on top,” said Hulkenberg, who has collected 32 points over the last four races and grabbed eight of them with a sixth-place run last time out in Japan.

“In the race, we have to see how we get on with the soft tires, as they didn’t look too good in free practice yesterday. Since then, we have improved the car, so they should last a bit longer. The long runs on the medium tire looked good.”

Hulkenberg will look to keep up a solid second half of 2013, which, naturally, he’s been enjoying after a tough first half for himself and the entire Sauber camp.

“If you have a competitive car like we have now, you have to make the most of it and enjoy every moment,” he said. “We’ve come from a very different position at the beginning of the year, so it makes you realize how nice it is to be battling at the front.”

Audi bids farewell to Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich upon retirement

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Audi bid farewell to its iconic head of motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, at its end-of-season ‘Race Night’ event in Germany on Friday upon his retirement.

Ullrich took over the reins as Audi’s head of motorsport in 1993 and stayed in the role for 23 years, overseeing its arrival in the prototype class of sports car racing and domination of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ullrich stepped down from the position at the end of 2016, handing the reins over to ex-Audi DTM chief Dieter Gass, and attended his final racing event with the German marque at its first works Formula E outing in Hong Kong earlier this month.

Ullrich was honored at the Race Night event on Friday and thanked for his efforts in developing Audi into a force within global motorsport.

“In 566 factory-backed commitments during this period he celebrated 209 victories, 13 of them in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, eleven in the 12-hour race at Sebring and nine in the ‘Petit Le Mans’ at Road Atlanta,” a piece on Ullrich’s tenure for Audi’s website reads.

“31 driver titles in super touring car racing, in the DTM and in the sports prototype category are credited to him. 57 campaigners were Audi factory drivers during Wolfgang Ullrich’s era and he was responsible for 18 new developments of racing cars – an impressive tally.”