Verstappen set for practice sessions in Austin, Brazil, Abu Dhabi

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Max Verstappen will get his first taste of an F1 race weekend at this year’s United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, after Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost confirmed that the Dutch youngster will enjoy three practice run-outs at the end of the season.

The team confirmed this week that Verstappen, 16, will become the youngest ever F1 driver next season, joining the team in a full-time race seat alongside Daniil Kvyat. This has left Jean-Eric Vergne out in the cold for 2015.

In order to give him some track time, Verstappen will be taking part in practice for the races in the USA, Brazil and Abu Dhabi at the end of the year. He will complete some external running in a 2011 car to gain his FIA superlicense in the meantime, as permitted by the regulations.

“In a few weeks we want to do a test with him, just to give him a feeling, with a two-year-old car,” Tost explained on Thursday at Spa. “We want to give him as much time and mileage as possible in a Formula 1 car.

“We expect a Friday session at least from Austin onwards. So Austin, Sao Paulo and Abu Dhabi. Then he will do one test day after Abu Dhabi.”

Verstappen’s manager also confirmed the plans in a statement on the driver’s website.

“Together with Franz Tost, we’ve discussed how we can optimize Max’ preparation for his debut season in Formula 1,” Raymond Vermeulen said. “Initially, he will test a lot with a Formula Renault 3.5-racer. Furthermore, he’ll drive a two-year-old Toro Rosso.”

Verstappen’s promotion to an F1 drive at such a young age has caused a stir in the paddock, with many claiming that he is too young to be racing. Sauber’s Adrian Sutil called it a “risky move”, but, like most of the other drivers, saw no problem racing against him so long as he had the experience.

These practice run-outs should give Verstappen a leg-up ahead of his F1 debut next March, as well as giving us a chance to see this talented youngster in action.

Penske: No room for Patrick in Indy 500 lineup. Ganassi? OK

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) Roger Penske has no room in his Indianapolis 500 lineup for Danica Patrick.

“The Captain” has a hunch where Patrick’s Indy comeback will take her in May – with Chip Ganassi.

“I sent him a note and said, `Congratulations. Danica better be driving your car at Indy because unfortunately she’s not driving for us,”‘ Penske said, laughing.

The 35-year-old Patrick said this week she will race only in the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 next year and then she will walk away from racing. Patrick is the only woman to have led laps in both the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500. Patrick ran the Indy 500 from 2005 through 2011. Her highest finish was third in 2009, and she was the first woman to lead laps in the race when she paced the field for 19 trips around the Brickyard as a rookie.

Penske has a full field for Indy with Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and 2017 series champion Josef Newgarden racing as fulltime entries and three-time winner Helio Castroneves returns on a one-shot deal to try and win a fourth.

Chip Ganassi Racing is the likely ride at Indy. Ganassi has room to field additional cars – he’s scaling down from four full-time cars to two next year – and would give Patrick a car capable of winning. Ganassi said Friday he has met with Patrick and called her “Danica Double” a great idea.

Penske said Patrick and Ganassi, who has Ed Jones and IndyCar great Scott Dixon in his lineup, would be a perfect pair.

“I think that’s a great seat for her,” Penske said Saturday. “That’s a great team. They’re the ones that’s always been competitive there. I take my hat off that she wants to continue to go back to open wheel. That’s going to be terrific for the sport and there’s going to be a lot of interest around the country.”

Patrick was highly marketable early in her career even though wins were rare. She won the pole for the Daytona 500 in 2013, but finished 24th in the standings the last two seasons. She won her only IndyCar race in 2008, in Japan. Patrick never scored a top-five finish in NASCAR and had only seven top 10s (though she led laps at the Daytona 500) in 189 career starts.

Penske, a 16-time winner as a car owner of the Indy 500, said Patrick would return to IndyCar a better driver.

“I think she’s going to come back to IndyCar a lot tougher having run in NASCAR,” he said. “I think she’s going to be someone that, in a good car, is going to pick it up. She’s got plenty of time to practice.”

Team Penske won the owner championship Saturday in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series. Sam Hornish Jr., who won three IndyCar titles and the 2006 Indy 500, said the sport would welcome back Patrick.

“She’s probably going to have a better shot at Indy because of what she’s done the last five years,” Hornish said.

Patrick has not revealed the team she’ll race for but surely a package deal with the same team and same sponsor for the biggest races in motorsports would make her again racing’s most marketable driver.

“I think it’s a great way for her to say, hey, I’m here, I’ve done it, I’m going to go back to the two biggest races and see if I can’t get out on top,” Penske said.

Penske can win a NASCAR championship with Brad Keselowski in Sunday’s Cup race.

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