Hamilton delighted with fifth Chinese GP pole, but remains wary of Ferrari threat

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Lewis Hamilton has made no secret of his delight after securing his fifth pole position at the Chinese Grand Prix during qualifying on Saturday at the Shanghai International Circuit.

The defending Formula 1 world champion edged out Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg by just 0.042 seconds in the final part of qualifying, but it was enough to give him a third pole position of the season.

Hamilton has an impressive record in China, winning the race three times. He has also started on pole position in 2007, 2008, 2013 and 2014, making this his fifth pole position in Shanghai.

“I think China’s continuing to be generally a good circuit for me, a very, very positive vibe here,” Hamilton said. “The car’s handling fantastically well this weekend, a lot better than it was in terms of the whole weekend compared to how it was in Malaysia.

“At the end of the day, this team continues to do an amazing job, the guys back in the factory continue to do a great job to regroup after the last race and bring some improvements for this weekend. I feel very grateful for that.”

Mercedes was upstaged by Sebastian Vettel in Malaysia as the German driver claimed Ferrari’s first win in almost two years ahead of Hamilton and Rosberg.

However, the Briton explained after qualifying that a number of changes have been made to ensure that there is no repeat of this result, although he does remain wary of the threat from behind.

“Obviously it wasn’t the tidiest weekend for us,” Hamilton said, reflecting on Malaysia. “More so for me and my guys on my side of the garage, we just wanted to get our full program in.

“Fortunately we didn’t have any problems so far this weekend, so that’s a big step for us. Obviously we’e got a tough race ahead of us tomorrow.

“Nico is quite quick, and the Ferrari is very good with its long run pace. So it’s not over by any means.”

You can watch the Chinese Grand Prix live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 1:30a ET tomorrow.

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.”