Ricciardo surprised by Williams’ qualifying pace in China

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Daniel Ricciardo believes that an improved race pace for Red Bull should put him in the fight for fifth position in tomorrow’s Chinese Grand Prix despite only qualifying seventh on Saturday.

Red Bull has endured a difficult start to the season in 2015, scoring just 11 points in the first two races, with a best finish of sixth place at the Australian Grand Prix.

Despite enjoying a trouble-free weekend so far in China, Ricciardo could only qualify seventh on Saturday, and admitted that he did not expect to be starting behind the Williams duo of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas.

“Williams pulled out a little more than we thought today,” Ricciardo told NBCSN. “I knew they’d come out with a bit more than yesterday, but a little bit more than we thought.

“I think our long run stuff is looking better around this track. We solved a few issues that we’ve had with drivability and stuff which was hurting our long run pace, so I think we can definitely match their pace tomorrow and give them a good hustle.”

Red Bull’s weekend has not been without its problems, though. Daniil Kvyat suffered a brake failure during practice on Friday, and could only qualify 12th in today’s session.

However, Ricciardo believes that the issues are slowly being ironed out, and is confident that a top five finish is within his reach in China.

“We’ve still got a few [issues], but looking back at the first couple of races, there’s been significantly less,” Ricciardo said. “So long as there’s less and less, then that’s all we can ask.

“Brakes on my side have been good. I haven’t really had any issues this weekend. We got out a little bit late for practice, but generally we’ve been running pretty smooth.

“Top five is the objective. I think Ferrari has better long run pace and will be a lonely third and fourth, but I think fifth will be pretty exciting for us and Williams.”

The Chinese Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 1:30a ET on Sunday.

Santino Ferrucci will drive No. 14 for AJ Foyt Racing full time in 2023 IndyCar season

Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt
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Santino Ferrucci will return to full-time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series next season, joining AJ Foyt Racing.

Ferrucci had made eight IndyCar starts with three teams since his last full-time season in 2020 while also racing part time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year.

He will drive the storied No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet for four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt’s team, which will field the car from its Waller, Texas headquarters.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the INDYCAR Series full time,” Ferrucci said in a team release. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally. I’m a race car driver, and I want to compete. Working with different teams has been exciting, and I’m proud that no matter which car I’ve raced, I’ve always shown speed and consistency. I couldn’t be more excited to join AJ Foyt Racing in the 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”

Ferrucci, 24, had finished a career-best fourth in IndyCar four times, including the 104th Indy 500 in 2020. He was the 2019 Indy 500 rookie of the year with a sixth.

In nine Xfinity starts since 2021, Ferrucci has a career-best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I am thrilled to welcome Santino to the team,” Larry Foyt said in a release. “He’s shown a knack for getting toward the front of the field, and I think he is a racer who moves forward on race day. A.J. sees the fire in him and has enjoyed their meetings together. I think Santino’s experience will help his rookie teammate as well, so he is a great addition to our roster.”

Ferrucci will be teamed at AJ Foyt Racing with Benjamin Pedersen, who finished fifth in the 2022 Indy Lights standings. The team has yet to specify the number for Pedersen’s entry, which will be fielded out of its Indianapolis race shop.

Foyt’s two full-time drivers last season were Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood, who is moving to Andretti Autosport.