Silly season sorting itself out with Massa official, Magnussen close

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As Formula One heads to the Americas for the final two rounds of the 2013 season, the 2014 silly season dealings are heating up.

The news Felipe Massa has landed with Williams is a good move for all parties. It keeps a Brazilian, and a popular one at that, on the grid. It gives teammate Valtteri Bottas an experienced driver to learn from and help guide the team’s setup direction. It also eliminates the consternation regarding the Venezuelan sponsorship dollars brought by Pastor Maldonado, given the investigation into that country’s funding of racing drivers.

Maldonado has been linked to Lotus for some time and if the situation is as dire there as it appears from the Kimi Raikkonen payment saga, his financial package could be too attractive for the team to turn down.

Elsewhere, McLaren’s lineup may be fluid as well with the possibility Kevin Magnussen replaces Sergio Perez, and as it turns out, multiple media outlets have said it’s a done deal.

Lotus is the last top-flight outfit to confirm its 2014 driver lineup. If talent was the only deciding factor, Nico Hulkenberg would already be signed. If it comes down to dollars, Maldonado enters the equation. Assuming reserve driver Davide Valsecchi gets his rightful promotion for the last two Grands Prix (we’d have to expect news within the next 24 hours on this), and does well, he could be in play.

Assuming that happens, you’d have four of the top five teams on the grid this year with at least one new driver entering in 2014; only Mercedes would carry its 2013 lineup over. And Perez has shown enough within his first three seasons to deserve a spot on merit, even though his financial package could help a team struggling in that department.

A similar situation may present itself for the second half of the field. Force India hasn’t made specific overtones about its direction but if the team fails to keep both its 2013 drivers, the potential exists that only Marussia would have the same lineup year-to-year.

Toro Rosso has already signed Daniil Kvyat. Sergey Sirotkin, the Russian teenager, is set for Sauber once he gets his superlicense, and Caterham may bring Heikki Kovalainen back in place of Charles Pic alongside Giedo van der Garde.

More of the 2014 grid should sort out before the holidays get going.

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.