McLaren’s Belgian GP grid penalty total rises to 105 places

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McLaren’s cumulative total of grid penalties for this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix has risen to 105 places after the team made further changes to the power units on its cars.

The British team has struggled since switching to Honda power units for the 2015 season, experiencing a number of issues with the components supplied by the Japanese manufacturer.

Since exceeding the season limit of five power units earlier in the season, McLaren has since racked up a sizeable grid penalty for every additional change that has been made.

On Friday, the FIA stewards confirmed that Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button had received a combined grid drop of 55 places after new components were fitted to their cars.

McLaren has now opted to take another new set of components for both cars, prompting the stewards to hand the teams a further 50 places worth of grid penalties, taking the team’s total to 105.

As per a stewards’ statement, “an 8th Internal Combustion Engine, 8th Turbo Charger, 8th MGU-H, and 7th MGU-K have been used” on Alonso’s car, whilst “a 9th Turbo Charger, 9th MGU-H, 8th Internal Combustion Engine, and 8th MGU-K have been used” on Button’s.

The end result? Alonso enters tomorrow’s Belgian Grand Prix with a 55-place grid penalty; Button has 50.

Naturally, neither driver will be able to serve the entirety of their penalties. Button qualified 17th on Saturday ahead of Alonso in P18. They will start 19th and 20th respectively due to their sanctions – not 67th and 73rd as I snarkily suggested on Twitter.

Neither driver will have to serve any kind of in-race penalty either after the additional sanctions were scrapped by the FIA last month, meaning that the actual damage of the changes is four grid positions.

The Belgian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 7:30am ET on Sunday.

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.