Raikkonen returns Ferrari to top Wednesday in Jerez

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Ferrari-powered cars completed a week sweep of the first official preseason test of the year, with Kimi Raikkonen on top Wednesday in the fourth day at Jerez.

Raikkonen was second on Tuesday behind the Sauber-Ferrari of Felipe Nasr, and put the SF15-T back on top Wednesday with the fastest lap of the week – a 1:20.841 from 106 laps completed.

Marcus Ericsson continued Sauber’s strong week in second with Lewis Hamilton third for Mercedes. These two each also clocked more than 100 laps on the day. Both caused a red flag –  Hamilton for a spin and Ericsson for stopping on course near the end of the day – but neither was a significant hindrance to their running.

Elsewhere Daniil Kvyat had an apparent ERS failure on his Red Bull, adding to his week of frustration that also him breaking the front wing on Sunday. He at least managed 63 laps on Wednesday.

For McLaren-Honda, more issues persisted with a fuel pump issue ending Jenson Button’s day early. On the bright side, the Englishman posted both his and McLaren’s best time of the week at 1:27.660, and completed 35 laps. Neither McLaren driver got a ton of track time.

F1 is off to Barcelona later this month, Feb. 19-22, for the second test of the preseason. Force India may join with its new car, but reports have indicated recently that might be pushed back even further.

Meanwhile times from Wednesday can be found below. See links to Tuesday, Monday and Sunday times here.

Jerez Day 4 – Final Results

1. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:20.841 (106 laps)
2. Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:22.019 (112)
3. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:22.172 (116)
4. Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:22.553 (97)
5. Felipe Massa Williams 1:23.116 (73)
6. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:23.802 (53)
7. Daniil Kvyat Red Bull 1:23.975 (63)
8. Jenson Button McLaren 1:27.660 (35)

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.