Palmer told Lotus drive may be open for 2016 season

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Jolyon Palmer has been told by Lotus F1 Team that there may be a full-time race seat open for the 2016 season.

Palmer joined Lotus in a reserve role for 2015 after winning last year’s GP2 Series title, and has taken part in five Formula 1 practice sessions so far this season.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Palmer made clear that he was not keen on remaining in a test role for another season, and has in fact been told that there could be an opening at Lotus for 2016.

“I don’t want to be a test driver again next year,” Palmer said. “My aim is still to be racing with Lotus and that is why I am here for the year to be racing.

“I have been told there could be an opportunity so I just have to try my best and show the team why they should take me.

“There is not much more to say, I am getting some time in the car, so at least I am getting an opportunity and as far I am aware there could be a chance so I am just trying to grab it with both hands.”

The current Lotus line-up comprises of Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado, two former GP2 champions.

Maldonado’s place with the team has been secure for some time due to the sizeable sponsorship that he brings to Enstone courtesy of Venezuelan state oil giant PDVSA. However, team CEO Matthew Carter has said in the past that in spite of Maldonado’s backing, no driver is indispensable.

Grosjean has led Lotus’ charge following the departure of Kimi Raikkonen at the end of 2013, and was known to be on Ferrari’s ‘back-up’ list had Sebastian Vettel not joined the team for 2015.

However, his financial backing is not on a par with Maldonado’s, and should Palmer be able to bring a greater sum to the team, Grosjean’s place could be at risk for 2016.

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.