Wolff: Focus now on two clean races for Mercedes

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Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has heaped praise on his team after ensuring that one of its drivers will win the 2014 Formula 1 drivers’ championship in Austin yesterday.

Although it has been clear for many months that the only drivers with a realistic chance of winning the title were Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo had mathematically been in contention from third in the standings.

However, following Hamilton’s win at the United States Grand Prix yesterday, Ricciardo is now unable to deny Mercedes its first drivers’ championship since 1955.

“Today, we ensured that only a Mercedes-Benz driver can win the 2014 drivers’ title, and that is an incredible achievement for the whole team, regardless of whether Lewis or Nico comes out on top in Abu Dhabi,” Wolff said after the race.

“It was a very strong race from both of them: each had the pace to win and the decisive laps came at the start of the second stint, when Nico was suffering of too much understeer on the prime tire and Lewis was able to catch and then overtake him on lap 24.”

Wolff said that the 10th one-two finish of the year paid testament to the great team effort at Brackley this year, but said that the focus must now lie on keeping the racing clean and both cars running properly.

“It was fantastic to see the tenth one-two finish for the team,” he said. “That is record-equalling and shows the amazing job everybody in this team has done this year.

“Now we need to get our heads down and work to ensure two clean races on the sporting and reliability front in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.”

With a 24-point lead, Hamilton is unable to wrap up the championship in Brazil as he could have without the controversial double points rule for the final race in Abu Dhabi. However, after five straight wins, the Briton is in the form of his life, leaving Rosberg requiring an almighty turnaround in fortunes to claim a maiden world title.

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.