Sainz wins again to all but secure Formula Renault 3.5 title

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Carlos Sainz Jr. has left title rival Roberto Merhi a near-impossible task to prevent him from claiming the 2014 Formula Renault 3.5 championship after winning once again at Circuit Paul Ricard today.

Sainz had been under pressure from Merhi at the top of the standings heading into this weekend, but he answered in perfect fashion by winning both races and leading every single lap in the process to all but clinch the title.

Just as he did on Saturday, Sainz was dominant in the DAMS car, winning the race by over ten seconds from Pierre Gasly and Oliver Rowland as Merhi came home in fourth place.

After taking the maximum score of 50 points from this weekend, Sainz now leads from Merhi by 44 with just two races remaining.

As a result, if Merhi fails to win both races at Jerez in three weeks’ time, Sainz will become champion. Should Merhi manage to clinch the pair of victories, Sainz needs one seventh-place finish (or six points) to make it safe.

The championship acts as a feeder series to Formula 1, with last year’s champion Kevin Magnussen securing a drive with McLaren for the 2014 season. Sainz did look set to follow the Dane into F1 in 2015, only for Toro Rosso to hire Max Verstappen as a replacement for Jean-Eric Vergne instead.

Sainz does have a great deal of support behind him from Red Bull, and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso also firmly believes that his compatriot will make it into F1 soon despite his Toro Rosso snub.

In other junior racing news, McLaren youngster Nyck de Vries has secured his second title of the 2014 season after winning the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 crown at Paul Ricard today. This follows his win in the Formula Renault Alps championship earlier this year, and sets him out as a star to keep an eye on in the future.

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.”