Ecclestone repeats Bahrain denials

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Bernie Ecclestone has repeated his claim that there are no demonstrations against this weekend’s Formula One race in Bahrain.

“They’re demonstrating now? I didn’t know that,” he said when asked by news agency AFP. “There’s nobody demonstrating.”

A car exploded late on Sunday in the financial district of the country’s capital Manama. A group calling itself the February 14 movement – a reference to the pro-democracy protests of 2011 that were brutally suppressed by the government – claimed responsibility.

That year’s race was cancelled due to the crisis. Last year’s Grand Prix went ahead amid extremely tight security. Despite that Force India team members were involved in an incident when a petrol bomb struck one of their vehicles. They later missed one of the practice sessions so their team could return to their hotel before nightfall.

Bahrain information minister Samira Rajab blamed the explosion on “terrorists” but claimed “there has been no major escalation of violence on the ground recently as the F1 Bahrain Grand Prix is drawing nearer.”

International media reports protests have been happening every day. Last week Human Rights Watch accused the Bahrain government of arresting over 20 people without warrants to prevent them from protesting during the race weekend.

Meanwhile the hacking group Anonymous, which took down the official Formula One website during last year’s Grand Prix, has threatened to cause further disruption again this year.

Asked if he thought the race would be a success Ecclestone replied “there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be”.

Three-time W Series champ Jamie Chadwick joining Andretti in Indy NXT Series for 2023

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Jamie Chadwick, the three-time W Series champion, will drive for Andretti Autosport in the Indy NXT Series next season.

Chadwick will make her debut in an American racing series in March, driving the No. 28 for Andretti Autosport with sponsorship from DHL. The 24-year-old will become the first female driver in 13 years to compete full time in the Indy NXT championship.

Chadwick joined the female free-to-enter W Series in its inaugural 2019 season, winning two races and the first of three consecutive championships. She has been a reserve driver for the Williams Formula One team and will continue in that role in 2023. She also has driven in the Extreme E Series.

Despite her success, Chadwick hasn’t landed a bigger ride in F3 or F2, and her break didn’t come until Michael Andretti contacted her and offered a test in an Indy NXT car.

The final three races of this year’s W Series schedule were canceled when funding fell through, but Chadwick still believes the all-female series was the right path for her.

“W Series has always been and will continue to be an opportunity to be racing for every female driver, so for my side, I looked at it while perhaps I would have liked to step up maybe earlier, at the same time being able to have that chance to race, get that experience, have that development, seat time… I was constantly learning,” Chadwick told The Associated Press.

“In that sense, I wasn’t frustrated at all. But on the flip side of it, now I’ve had that experience testing in the United States in Indy NXT and this is something I’m really excited about.”

Chadwick also is expected to have an enhanced role as a development driver next season with Williams, which chose American driver Logan Sargeant to fill its open seat on next year’s F1 grid.

“Andretti Autosport is proud to be supporting Jamie alongside DHL,” said Michael Andretti. “Jamie’s successful career speaks for itself, but Indy NXT gives Jamie the opportunity to continue her development in a new type of racing.

“We’ve turned out five Indy NXT champions over the years and look forward to continuing our role in developing new talent.”

Indy NXT is the new name of the rebranded Indy Lights Series, the final step on the ladder system before IndyCar.

Andretti will field two drivers next season in IndyCar that were developed in Indy NXT: Kyle Kirkwood, the 2021 champion, will return to Andretti after one season in IndyCar driving for A.J. Foyt Racing, and Devlin DeFrancesco is back for a second season.

Chadwick will be teammates in Indy NXT with Hunter McElrea and Louis Foster. She becomes Andretti’s second full-time female driver alongside Catie Munnings, who competes for Andretti United in the Extreme E Series.