Time ticking for Caterham in battle with Marussia

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As the Formula One world breathes a collective sigh of relief and takes a moment to relax during the summer break, the battle for the drivers’ championship could already be over. Sebastian Vettel currently enjoys a 38 point lead over Kimi Raikkonen, and it wasn’t until this point last season that the German driver began to break into his stride.

However, one war that is guaranteed to rumble on until the end of the season concerns the two smallest teams in Formula One: Caterham and Marussia. Despite both teams being in their fourth season, neither has scored a point and at times entire grands prix can pass by with little more than a blue-flag appearance on the TV for the minnows. In many ways though, 2013 has been a landmark year for both teams, setting the stage for a tight second half of the season at the back of the grid.

In the last three years, the accepted ‘pecking order’ has read “Caterham-Marussia-HRT”, with the third team on that list folding at the end of last season. Therefore, when Marussia began the season by comfortably beating Caterham in the first three races, there was a feeling that something had changed at the back. Led by Ferrari starlet Jules Bianchi, it appeared that Marussia could finally pose a threat to Caterham and seize P10 in the constructors’ championship by the throat.

Nothing in Formula One is ever that simple though. Come Bahrain, the tables had turned in emphatic fashion as Charles Pic not only trounced both Marussias, but he also led home Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez to cap off a remarkable performance. In Spain, Pic finished just one place behind Valtteri Bottas, with the Finn behind the wheel of the car that won the very same grand prix in 2012, marking a total reversal in fortunes for Williams. Since then, the battle has been dominated by Caterham with the team’s performance in Hungary (P14 and P15) seeing the gap to Marussia grow to a season high.

However, without finishing any higher that 13th, it means very little for Caterham. Time is no longer on the side of Leafield-based team with half the season gone and just nine shots at P12 remaining. Undoubtedly, it will be the grands prix with high rates of attrition that will give Caterham the best chance of trumping Marussia – a fact that Marussia proved last season as Timo Glock took advantage of a disrupted Singapore Grand Prix to finish 12th. This appeared to seal P10 for the team last season only for another retirement-heavy race in Brazil to allow Vitaly Petrov to finish P11 for Caterham on-track, overtaking Charles Pic (then of Marussia) late on.

For Caterham, time is slowly running out if the team is to surpass Marussia, but it promises to be one of the most interesting battles in the second half of 2013.

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.