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Hinchcliffe: 2016 IndyCar campaign better than final standing suggests

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James Hinchcliffe believes his performance through the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season was better than his final points tally and finish in the drivers’ standings suggest.

Hinchcliffe returned to full-time racing this year with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports after having his 2015 campaign cut short by a severe accident during practice for the Indianapolis 500.

The Canadian scored pole for the 100th running of the ‘500 back in May, and picked up three podium finishes through the year, recording a best result of second in the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Despite ending the season 13th in the drivers’ standings, Hinchcliffe is adamant that his season was better than the statistics suggest.

“If you wipe the Detroit weekend off the map, you give us back the points from Texas and we finish the race at Watkins Glen, we’re fighting for a top three in the championship,” Hinchcliffe told indycar.com.

Hinchcliffe finished endured a nightmare weekend in Detroit with 18th and a DNF in the two races. Then in the final 3 races of the year, he lost 25 points due to a technical infraction after his charge to second at Texasran short on fuel at Watkins Glen after being poised to finish the race P2, and finished 12th in the double points finale at Sonoma.

Hinchcliffe’s impressive comeback season was one of IndyCar’s feel-good stories of 2016, but he stressed that SPM’s on-track strength should come as no shock.

“It shouldn’t be that surprising. This team has done that before,” Hinchcliffe said.

“That’s what’s so impressive about SPM, they are kind of the little team that could.

“When you think there’s the three powerhouse teams that combine to make 12 cars or half the grid, if you’re anywhere in the top 12 in points, you’re doing a good job if you’re not one of those guys.”

Team owner Sam Schmidt is confident that Hinchcliffe can lead SPM for many years to come, and is targeting a shot at the championship in 2017.

“We can build a long-term program around him and a long-term program around Mikhail [Aleshin] and keep on improving,” Schmidt said.

“We’re still not perfect, but I think the guys are doing a hell of a job.

“We want to position ourselves in the offseason, fill in a couple of spots here and there, and legitimately go for the championship next year.”

Hamilton, Red Bull teammates both go to NASA before USGP

Photo: Red Bull Content Pool
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One of the more intriguing United States Grand Prix adventures occurred on Wednesday, as both Lewis Hamilton and the pair of Red Bull Racing teammates, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, all went to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston – in separate sessions – before heading onto Austin.

Hamilton posted on his Instagram story on Wednesday that he’d “quit his day job in a second” to work at NASA and become an astronaut, and the unbridled enthusiasm spoke to the three-time Formula 1 World Champion’s love of different life aspects entirely outside of racing.

“(I) had an incredible day yesterday, having a bit of a comedown today,” Hamilton said today at the FIA Press Conference. “I was just buzzed all day yesterday because it’s always been something I’ve wanted to do. It’s always something I’ve been fascinated about, space and space travel particularly.

“So to actually go there… and I had a million questions. I’m sure the guy got fed up with me. I asked a lot of questions and I got to see a lot of great things, some of the new technology they are working on and yeah, I want to go back.”

The Mercedes AMG Petronas team posted a gallery of Hamilton’s adventure on its website, linked here, and a few samples are below.

As for the Red Bull pair, the young duo of Ricciardo and Verstappen were equally awestruck by the experience.

“There really are a lot of similarities between this and F1, just the technology alone,” Ricciardo said. “I had a guest come to a race last year, when they got into the garage they were like: ‘this is like a space station’. We went to mission control here and it’s really like what we have in the Ops Room in Milton Keynes. Even the safety technology is similar. The astronauts go through the same measurements, a similar kind of HANS device etc. It’s really cool.”

Verstappen added, “There are quite a lot of comparisons, if you really want to talk about it we could go on for an hour! The control center looks pretty similar to ours. We share a lot of the same technology. It was really interesting for us to see that and I bet it would be the same if they could see ours.”

Here’s a link to Red Bull’s gallery and some teaser shots below.