‘Hungry Heidi’ pleasing Sebastian Vettel

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Three-time world champion Sebastian Vettel has a tradition of naming his car ahead of each season, and 2013 is no different with the RB9 being christened “hungry Heidi.” Humorous names aside, the defending champion appears to be working well with his new car.

“Of course it is important to come here with the feeling that you have done everything possible to start the season in a good position.

“We have been working very hard in the factory between Barcelona and before flying out to Australia, so for ourselves the feeling is very positive. What that really means we will find out on Saturday.”

Vettel set the quickest time in both Friday practice sessions which surprised many following Red Bull’s disappointing pace in pre-season. The German driver was quick not to get too carried away with his success, although he was pleased with the result.

“The car is doing exactly the things that I like, but also that you should not read too much into the Friday times. Of course it is better to be at the top of the time sheet than somewhere in the midfield.”

With Red Bull, Ferrari, Lotus and Mercedes separated by less than one second in practice, qualifying could be incredibly tight, and Vettel also expects the field to get even closer on Saturday.

“I think we haven’t seen everything from the others on the soft tires so I expect it to be much closer tomorrow. I hope that we will be able to take the fantastic balance that the car has right now into the next two days.”

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing

Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”