Vettel set to return to site of first win

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Sebastian Vettel is looking forward to returning to Monza – the site of his first grand prix victory – next weekend for the final round of the European season at the Italian Grand Prix.

Vettel claimed his maiden win at the historic circuit back in 2008 when driving for Scuderia Toro Rosso. His win was part of an incredible season for the Faenza-based team that saw them outperform ‘parent’ team Red Bull in the constructors’ championship. In 2009, Vettel moved to Red Bull and with them has claimed three consecutive titles since 2010.

“This track brings back great memories for me, mainly from my first win there in 2008 with Toro Rosso,” Vettel said. “I can’t describe the feeling of standing on the top of the podium for the first time, and Monza was one of the best places to experience it because of the thousands of passionate fans that stand beneath, it gives you goose bumps.”

The importance of Monza to Vettel was evident at the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the final round of the season. The German driver went into the race in third place, but still with a chance of taking the title. His engineer had instructed him to write “MONZA” on his balaclava as a reminder of his debut win, with the outsider eventually claiming the first of his championships come the checkered flag.

However, Monza has traditionally been a ‘bogey track’ for Red Bull, claiming just one win at the circuit in 2011. Vettel will be hoping to add to this figure next weekend, but his bumper championship lead will certainly make failing to do so less of a disappointment should he miss out on a third win at the circuit.

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

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing
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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.”