GP2: Marciello claims maiden win as Nasr cuts the gap to Palmer

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In another entertaining weekend of GP2 racing at Spa-Francorchamps, Ferrari junior driver Raffaele Marciello claimed his maiden race win after seeing off McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne in an epic feature race battle.

The two youngsters made the most of the wet conditions to surge ahead at the front of the field before scrapping for the race win in the final few laps of the race.

Just as the feature race got underway on Saturday, a heavy rain shower hit the circuit that was severe enough to warrant a red flag. American driver Conor Daly was the only casualty of the few laps in the rain, making a mistake and finishing his race in the gravel.

Vandoorne had held the lead from pole position, and quickly moved ahead at the front alongside Marciello. The McLaren junior appeared to have the race under control, enjoying a lead of a couple of seconds over the Racing Engineering driver before taking to the pits for a fresh set of intermediate tires.

Marciello stayed out a few laps longer, and was flying when he came back out on fresh tires. The Italian driver quickly reeled in Vandoorne before the two put on a fantastic duel at the front of the field, showing racecraft far beyond their years. In the end, Marciello found a way past at Rivage after getting a better run on the Belgian along the Kemmel straight.

After a difficult start to the season, it was an important win for Marciello to take, but he could only finish in 14th place in the sprint race on Sunday.

In the battle for the drivers’ title, Felipe Nasr managed to cut Jolyon Palmer’s lead at the top of the standings to 32 points after winning the sprint race on Sunday. The Brazilian could only qualify P11 on Saturday, but rallied to finish ahead of Palmer in both races and reduce the gap by eleven points.

In GP3, Red Bull junior Alex Lynn took a big step towards the championship by claiming his first win since the feature race in Austria. He now leads New Zealand’s Richie Stanaway by 32 points at the top of the standings.

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.