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Neveu: Le Mans clash a clear attack on WEC by F1

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FIA World Endurance Championship CEO Gerard Neveu believes that the decision to schedule the 2016 European Grand Prix on the same weekend as the 24 Hours of Le Mans is a “clear attack” on his series by Formula 1.

Since 2011, the FIA has strived to ensure that the Le Mans weekend does not clash with an F1 race, allowing Nico Hulkenberg to complete double duties with Force India and Porsche in 2015.

However, the provisional F1 calendar for 2016 has the revived European Grand Prix in Baku, Azerbaijan slated for June 19, clashing with Le Mans.

Although the FIA has stated that the grand prix in Baku will start following the conclusion of the 24 hour race, few have been impressed by the calendar clash – least of all, Neveu.

In an interview with Autosprint, Neveu said that he believes there is no coincidence about the move and that F1 is concerned about the size and growth of the WEC.

“It’s a clear attack on us and on this race,” Neveu said. “[Bernie] Ecclestone never does anything nonchalantly.

“It is a shame because by doing this you take away the possibility of having F1 stars entering what still is the most important race in the world. We could have had Hulkenberg and also other F1 drivers – motorsport fans are losing out.

“The FIA should have protected us better.”

Porsche has already confirmed that it will leave a space open for Hulkenberg until the 2016 F1 calendar is finalized in the hope that the race in Azerbaijan does change weekend.

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.