Alonso enjoys “great day” in simulator as comeback bid continues


Fernando Alonso’s bid to return to racing at next weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix appears to be gathering steam after the Spaniard enjoyed a “great day” in the McLaren simulator on Wednesday.

Alonso was forced to miss the opening Formula 1 grand prix of the season in Australia on March 15 after suffering a concussion during a testing accident in February.

Although he was not seriously hurt and appeared to be okay when talking in a video released on his YouTube channel in the week after the accident, McLaren followed the advice given by his doctors and rested the Spaniard for the first round of the year.

Over the race weekend, Alonso was in Dubai beginning some fitness training, and on Wednesday got in the team’s simulator for the first time since his accident.

On his official Twitter account, Alonso said: “Great day today at MTC! Lots of meetings and simulator work!”

The team is yet to confirm whether Alonso will be racing in next weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix, but the signs coming out of Woking this week are positive.

Should the two-time world champion return, he will take part in his first race for McLaren since the 2007 Brazilian Grand Prix, where he narrowly missed out on a third world championship.

Undoutbedly, both he and teammate Jenson Button will be hoping for some kind of improvement from the team after a miserable start to the season in Australia. Kevin Magnussen, Alonso’s stand-in, didn’t even start the race following an engine failure, whilst Button finished two laps down on race winner Lewis Hamilton as the only driver outside of the top ten.

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.