Nico Hulkenberg to compete in his first Race Of Champions

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Nico Hulkenberg will join fellow F1 drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel in the annual Race Of Champions this November.

Hulkenberg’s name is the latest to be added to a stellar field including fellow (and nine-time) Le Mans 24 Hours winner Tom Kristensen, 2014 World Rallycross champ Peter Solberg, reigning ROC Champion of Champions David Coulthard, five-time 500cc MotoGP champ Mick Doohan and double MotoGP champ Jorge Lorenzo.

Other drivers are expected to be added to the field between now and the actual event, which will be held Nov. 20-21 at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park stadium.

Hulkenberg, who races for Sahara Force India in F1, was selected for the ROC field because he won this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours event. He’s the first current F1 driver to win Le Mans in more than 20 years, having driven a Porsche to the win this past June.

This will be Hulkenberg’s first ROC, and illustrates the wide breath of vehicles he’s driven and succeeded in this seaso.

Hulkenberg will partner with Vettel for Team Germany, organizers said in a media release. Vettel is a six-time ROC winner, having previously partnered with F1 great Michael Schumacher.

“I’ve always wanted to take part (in the ROC) but it never worked out, so now I’m really happy to be a part of it and looking forward to it,” Hulkenberg said in a media release. “I’m obviously stepping into big shoes to replace Michael Schumacher, which is a huge honor as well. I feel very happy and positive about that and it will be fun to team up with Seb and race and fight for Team Germany.

“The ROC track is very narrow and tight, a bit like racing on a street circuit. But it’s still quick and dynamic and entertaining to watch. There’s going to be quite a bit of car-hopping, adapting and adjusting from one machine to another. They’re all quite different so I don’t really know what to expect. But I guess I’ll get dumped into the cold water and then I’ll have to figure out how to swim.”

Vettel is looking forward to working with his new teammate.

“It’s obviously very sad that Michael can’t join us again, but in his absence it’s great to have Nico as a partner on Team Germany this year,” Vettel said. “I have massive respect for what he did in the Le Mans 24 Hours – to win it on his first attempt is very impressive.

“That’s a great race to watch because the race is long yet they race flat out from the first lap for the whole of the race. The Race Of Champions is at the other end of the scale in terms of distance but I can assure Nico we push just as hard!”

The ROC is split into two days of racing. Friday evening, Nov. 20, features the team-oriented Nations Cup, where drivers pair up based upon nationality and vie for “World’s Fastest Nation” honors.

The following day is essentially every driver for himself in the battle to earn the ROC championship.

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New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
Joe Portlock - Formula 1/Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images
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Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”