Sainz Jr. continues to stake his claim for Toro Rosso seat

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Carlos Sainz Jr. has continued to make his case for replacing Jean-Eric Vergne at Toro Rosso in the near future after claiming pole position and winning today’s World Series by Renault race in Spain today.

The Red Bull junior driver and son of World Rally Championship legend Carlos Sainz went unchallenged during the first of two races at Motorland Aragon today, having started on pole position by just 0.018 seconds. He ultimately won by 12 seconds ahead of Russian driver Nikolay Martsenko.

Sainz Jr. won the second race at Monza in the first round two weeks ago, and with this victory, he appears to be leading the race to replace Vergne at Toro Rosso.

Vergne has by no means failed to deliver for Toro Rosso, but following his snubbing for the Red Bull seat last season, it appears that there is not much of a future for him within the team’s set up.

Red Bull’s junior programme has been rather brutal over the years, chewing up and spitting out the likes of Christian Klien, Robert Doornbos, Scott Speed, Sebastian Buemi, Sebastien Bourdais, Jaime Alguersuari and Vitantonio Liuzzi. The only two drivers to have successfully made the step up to Red Bull are Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo, whilst none of the other drivers listed remain in the sport.

When Ricciardo moved to Red Bull last season, the vacant seat at Toro Rosso was thought to be between Sainz Jr. and fellow Red Bull junior Antonio Felix da Costa. However, GP3 champion Daniil Kvyat was the shock choice, but he has since proven that it was indeed the right call.

However, this did not shut the door for da Costa or Sainz Jr. Given that Vergne has only recorded a best finish of sixth during his two full seasons of F1 and failed to turn many heads in the sport, it could be that he is dropped in the next twelve months to make way for one of these drivers.

Sainz Jr. is certainly doing a fantastic job to stake a claim, though. da Costa is spending 2014 racing in the German DTM championship, and although he is still associated with Red Bull, he is no longer an ‘official’ junior driver unlike Sainz Jr.

Should Sainz Jr. continue to win races and impress in the Renault-backed feeder series, the team may opt to act sooner rather than later and draft him in for Vergne.

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

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If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.