GP2: Evans and Markelov retained by Russian Time

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RT Russian Time has become the latest team to confirm its line-up for the forthcoming GP2 Series season, announcing that it will retain Mitch Evans and Artem Markelov for 2015.

Evans led the team’s charge in 2014, picking up 174 of its 180 points en route to fourth place in the drivers’ championship with two wins and four podium finishes.

Now entering his third season in GP2, the New Zealander is hoping to mount a serious challenge for the title with Russian Time.

“I’m greatly looking forward to another GP2 season with Russian Time in what looks like being another very competitive year,” Evans said in a statement. “We proved we had race-winning capability in 2014 and the goal has to be to build on that, put together a consistent programme and hopefully challenge for the championship.”

Markelov only scored six points in his debut season, but is hoping for a better campaign after finding his feet in 2014 following the step up from German F3.

“I’m happy to be able to announce a second season of GP2 with Russian Time in an unchanged driver line-up,” Markelov said. “It was a good environment in which to learn and Mitch is obviously a strong yardstick for me.

“Looking back at 2014, the series was a sizeable jump from F3 and my qualifying pace and getting the best out of the tires in that situation is the area I will be concentrating on.”

Evans will be hoping to repeat his title-winning escapades from GP3 in 2012, but he will need to overcome championship favorite and McLaren junior Stoffel Vandoorne this year. Other likely protagonists include Ferrari protege Raffaele Marciello, Red Bull junior Pierre Gasly and Williams development driver Alex Lynn, creating a very open fight at the front of the field.

The first GP2 pre-season test kicks off in Bahrain on March 9.

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.