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.

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.