Button targets P18 or better for McLaren in qualifying

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Jenson Button heads into tomorrow’s qualifying session for the Australian Grand Prix with low expectations, believing that anything beyond the last row of the grid will be an achievement for McLaren following a difficult winter.

For 2015, the British team has made the switch to Honda power units in a bid to return to the front of the field after going over two years without a grand prix victory.

However, the new engines have proved difficult to work with so far, limiting the team to just 380 laps across 12 days in winter testing. In comparison, pace-setters Mercedes managed 1,339.

The problems continued in practice for the Australian Grand Prix on Friday as Button could manage just 27 laps in total, leaving the Briton with low expectations for qualifying on Saturday.

“I’m hoping it won’t be the last row of the grid tomorrow,” Button said. “It’s not going to be easy, we all know that.

“We have a few problems to solve, but the basic car doesn’t feel too bad. We know it’s not going to be easy, but we’re all working as one team, we’re solving the problems as we go, and, hopefully, we’ll be competitive sooner rather than later.

“We’ll put our heads down and get the best out of what we’ve got this weekend. A lot of hard work will be needed, but we knew that would be the case coming into the season.”

With Manor struggling to get its cars ready for qualifying, and with uncertainty still surrounding Sauber’s participation this weekend, Button and Magnussen may be safe in making it through to the top 15 in Q2 at the very least.

However, judging by McLaren’s form so far this weekend, a top ten finish may be just out of reach for the British team in Australia.

You can watch qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 2a ET on Saturday.

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.”