Magnussen leads McLaren’s charge with best qualifying since Australia

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Kevin Magnussen has secured his best qualifying result since the opening round of the 2014 Formula 1 season by finishing sixth today in Austria.

The Danish driver was the leading McLaren at the Red Bull Ring as experienced teammate Jenson Button dropped out in Q2 for the fourth time this season, qualifying 12th.

Magnussen was one of a number of drivers to benefit from Lewis Hamilton’s failure to post a time in Q3. The Briton made a mistake on both of his timed runs, meaning that he will start the race from ninth tomorrow.

“If everything had been perfect today, I think we could have been in the top five,” Magnussen explained. “I made a tiny mistake at the final corner on my final lap in Q3, but, even so, I’m happy enough with how things went today. And I think the whole team can feel satisfied, too: we’re definitely making progress, so we just need to keep it up now.”

The result is Magnussen’s best in qualifying since he finished fourth on Saturday in Australia. Since then, he has failed to reach the top ten on three occasions, and was deemed to have been suffering with ‘rookie syndrome’ by team boss Eric Boullier.

Now he has his mojo back, the Dane will be hoping to convert his good qualifying result into some solid points on Sunday.

Button, on the other hand, had a miserable Saturday. After a brake problem sidelined him in FP3, the 2009 world champion did not fare much better during qualifying.

“You never really know how much you lose from missing FP3, but it meant we were a little in the dark on set-up going into qualifying,” he explained. “Having said that, I think I could’ve made it into the top 10 if my last run in Q2 had worked out.”

McLaren has won the Austrian Grand Prix on six occasions, one more than any other team. Although its chances of adding to this tally tomorrow are incredibly slim, a good haul of points will certainly be the target.

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.