Marussia falls short in last-ditch attempt to race in Abu Dhabi

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ABU DHABI – Marussia F1 Team has fallen short in a last-ditch attempt to race in this weekend’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that could have put the Anglo-Russian outfit in line for a $40m windfall.

After struggling financially for some time, the Marussia F1 operation entered administration following the Russian Grand Prix in October, before ultimately closing its doors and making 200 staff redundant two weeks ago.

However, it emerged in Brazil that efforts were still being made to get the team to Abu Dhabi for the final race of the year, with participation in the final race preventing its likely exclusion from the constructors’ championship and the loss of ninth place in the standings – set to be the team’s best ever season in F1.

Ferrari engine personnel were spotted sporting Marussia shirts on Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, with two garages between Caterham and Williams being cleared in case of the team’s arrival. Personnel and cargo were also on standby to be transported to the Yas Marina Circuit ahead of Thursday’s scrutineering deadline.

Ultimately though, the 11th-hour talks fell short, with the team’s driver, Max Chilton, confirming on Twitter that Marussia would not be racing in Abu Dhabi after all.

Therefore, we will have a 10-team grid for the final race of the 2014 Formula 1 season, with Caterham returning after two races away following its own financial struggles. Kamui Kobayashi is the only confirmed driver up to now, but with the FIA publishing the entry list for this weekend’s race today, we should know who the second driver is in the next few hours.

Wednesday did yield some good news for Marussia, though. Jules Bianchi has been transferred to a hospital in France and is no longer in an artificial coma following his accident at the Japanese Grand Prix in October that left him with severe head injuries.

Bianchi scored the team’s only points in F1 history at the Monaco Grand Prix in May, battling through to finish ninth in one of the best stories the sport has seen this year. However, the financial bonus of a higher championship finish is set to be lost due to the closure of the team, with Caterham the likely beneficiary.

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.