Hulkenberg extends contract with Force India for two more years

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Nico Hulkenberg will stay with Sahara Force India through at least the 2017 season, the team has confirmed Tuesday.

The two-year contract extension sees him continue at the team he’s been with since 2011, with the exception of 2013 at Sauber. He was a reserve driver in 2011 and race driver in 2012, 2014 and this year.

“I’m very pleased to finalize and announce my plans for the future,” Hulkenberg said in a team release.

“I know this team inside out and I feel at home here so it made perfect sense to make a long-term commitment.

“The progress the team has shown over the last two years has really impressed me and gives me confidence for the future.”

Added team principal Vijay Mallya, “I make no secret of being one of Nico’s biggest fans and so it’s fantastic to confirm him as our driver for the next couple of seasons.

“He has spent almost four years with us already and in that time we’ve seen him develop into one of the best racing drivers in the world.

The move means a couple different things. For one, it means Hulkenberg will still not be at the proverbial “top team” – a la a Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull or perhaps Williams.

Second, it also takes his name off the list of potential Haas F1 Team drivers.

Prior to this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, the F1 on NBC Sports team is on site at Force India for filming of the latest “Off the Grid” – some sneak peeks are linked below.

Further details of the show will be announced soon.

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.