Ricciardo: “I need to get some points on the board”

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No word on whether or not Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo has opted to buy a rabbit’s foot on his way to this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, but at this point, it probably wouldn’t hurt.

Ricciardo has put up great performances in his first two Grand Prix as counterpart to four-time defending World Champion Sebastian Vettel – only to be DQ’d after finishing second in Australia and then having another podium run in Malaysia ruined by a series of unfortunate events.

That chain began when Ricciardo was released from the pits on his final stop with the left front tire not properly attached. The team wheeled him back to his box and he lost a lap in the process. Adding salt to the wound, the FIA tagged Ricciardo with a 10-spot grid penalty for Bahrain after deeming the incident an unsafe release.

The fact that the endings to his races in Melbourne and Sepang have come down to bad luck and not him is probably cold comfort. With nothing to show for his hard work so far, Ricciardo appears to feel the urgency to leave the desert with a good points haul this weekend.

“In terms of aggression…Well, it’s not going to be any less,” Ricciardo said of his mindset going into Bahrain on Red Bull Racing’s web site. “I’m going to Bahrain thinking that I have to be starting 11th, and need an aggressive start to get me back into contention.

“I need to get some points on the board and that’s not going to happen if I’m cruising around in the middle of the pack. That said, I don’t think I need to change anything much. I think I’m driving with good intensity, so I don’t need to do anything dramatically different.”

As for the matter of catching Mercedes, it appears that Red Bull isn’t as far off as people were expecting them to be after their dismal preseason testing.

While Ricciardo found trouble late in Malaysia, Vettel was able to claim his first podium of the season with a third-place showing behind winner Lewis Hamilton and runner-up Nico Rosberg.

Ricciardo isn’t sure how the Bahrain International Circuit’s array of long straights will suit his and Vettel’s Renault-powered RB10s, but feels confident that the team can catch up to Merc when the series comes to tracks where downforce is more highlighted.

“I think the car itself, aerodynamically and mechanically, is competitive,” Ricciardo said. “We know we’re a little bit down on straightline speed and that really hurts somewhere like Sepang – though through Sector 2 [the twisty section], we were strong all weekend and on the pace of the Mercs.

“We’ll see how Bahrain treats us but once we get to China and – even better – Barcelona, I think we can really take the fight to them.”

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.”