Fernando Alonso closes out practice in Singapore fastest

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Fernando Alonso has finished fastest in the final practice session for the Singapore Grand Prix ahead of qualifying later today (live on CNBC from 9am ET).

The Ferrari driver posted a fastest lap time of 1:47.299 to finish just 0.05 seconds ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo as the Mercedes duo of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton were forced to settle for third and sixth place respectively.

A brief rain shower on Saturday morning washed away much of the grip on the circuit, making it more difficult for the drivers looking to find their optimum lap time as night fell in Singapore. Further to that, the drivers needed to make sure that they saved their super-soft tires for the sessions later in the weekend with tire degradation being critical.

In the early stages of the session on the prime tire, Mercedes did appear to have a run on the rest of the field with Rosberg pulling clear ahead of Ricciardo in the Red Bull. However, the Silver Arrows could not repeat their form from Friday practice, and may face a serious challenge for pole position in qualifying later today.

Alonso, a two-time winner in Singapore, looked at ease with his Ferrari, and could be a genuine contender for pole position in Singapore if he can carry this form over into qualifying. However, he will have to be wary of Red Bull drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel, who both finished inside the top five.

Jean-Eric Vergne enjoyed a very good session on Saturday evening in Singapore, finishing fourth for Toro Rosso ahead of Vettel and Hamilton. Although Williams would not ordinarily be happy with seventh and eighth place, Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas certainly appear to be in better shape than they did on Friday in practice.

Just when Mercedes appeared to be back on top, Ferrari and Red Bull have thrown themselves well and truly into the mix. Quite whether there is a genuine issue at Mercedes, or if the team was just sandbagging, is unclear. However, what we do know is that it will make for a thrilling qualifying session later today.

You can watch qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix live on CNBC from 9am ET.

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.”