Verstappen impresses again to finish fourth in Austin

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Max Verstappen’s sensational rookie season in Formula 1 continued in Sunday’s United States Grand Prix as he matched his best race result, finishing fourth at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas.

Verstappen, 18, made his F1 debut at the beginning of the year after just one year in single seater racing, but has proven his ability with a series of impressive performances in 2015 that show an ability beyond his years.

The Dutchman qualified well at COTA on Sunday morning before spending his race battling well up the order, pitting under the first safety car to give himself fresh tires and track position.

Although he was unable to hold off the charging Sebastian Vettel and claim his maiden podium finish, Verstappen crossed the line in fourth place to match his best result from the Hungarian Grand Prix in July.

“It was a bit of a crazy race,” Verstappen told NBCSN after the race. “The start, [I] didn’t have the best getaway. Then I just dived up the inside and I think I took three guys or something, was very good.

“he pace wasn’t too bad. Struggled the first lap but then we could keep up with the Ferraris, but was stuck behind the Force India because the straight line speed they had was quite impressive.

“From there on I had a lot of enjoyable battles, especially with Raikkonen. I enjoyed that one a lot, maybe he didn’t but surely I did. From there I didn’t make any mistakes. We did right call to switch to slick tires. The team did a very good strategy.

“It was very difficult because you didn’t want to go too early. Then you lose a lot of time. Wait and see when someone else goes. Someone else was, it was not too bad, and I said now we go.”

Verstappen admitted that he did not fight with Vettel for third at the end due to his fading tires, but was delighted with another fourth place finish.

“For sure, I was not fighting Sebastian,” he said. “I was just trying to save the tires. It was quite a risky move to go with the softs for so long. But we managed it.

“The points we’ve scored is quite impressive for the moment. I’m very happy with that and hopefully score some more in upcoming races.”

Kyle Busch interests McLaren for Indy 500, but team is leaning toward experience

McLaren Indy Kyle Busch
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With Arrow McLaren SP heavily weighing a fourth car for the Indy 500 next year, Kyle Busch is a candidate but not at the top of the IndyCar team’s list.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown addressed the possibility Wednesday morning during a video news conference with Gavin Ward, the team’s newly named racing director.

“I have not personally spoken with Kyle Busch, but you can read into that that someone else in our organization has,” Brown said. “We want to make sure if we run a fourth car, we’re in the mindset that we want someone that is experienced around the 500. It’s such an important race, and from a going for the championship point of view, we’ve got three drivers that we want to have finish as strong as possible, so if we ran a fourth car, we’d want to be additive, not only for the fourth car itself, but to the three cars and so bringing in someone who’s not done it before potentially doesn’t add that value from an experience point of view.”

Busch will race the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing next season in NASCAR under a new deal that will allow the two-time Cup Series champion to make his Indy 500 debut. Busch, who had a previous deal to run the Indy 500 nixed by Joe Gibbs Racing, openly courted Chevy IndyCar teams to contact him during his introductory news conference with RCR last month.

After Team Penske (which has given no indications of a fourth car at Indy alongside champion Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), McLaren is the second-best Chevy organization, and it’s fielded an extra Indy 500 car the past two years for Juan Pablo Montoya. The Associated Press reported last month that McLaren was in “serious conversation” about running Busch at Indy with Menards sponsorship.

But with its restructured management, the team is in the midst of significant expansion for 2023. AMSP is adding a third full-time car for 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi to team with Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, and a massive new shop also is being built in the Indianapolis area.

“(It’s) not because of him but purely because of experience,” Brown said of Busch. “He’s an awesome talent and would be huge, huge news for the speedway. But yeah, I think everyone is under consideration if we decide to do it, but experience is right at the top of the list as far as what’s going to be the most important to us.”

And it seems likely there will be a veteran joining Rossi, O’Ward and Rosenqvist at the Brickyard.

“A fourth car at the 500 is very much under consideration,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t even want to get ahead of ourselves, but we wouldn’t be ruling out a fourth car in the future on a full-time basis. That definitely wouldn’t be for ’23. But as we expand the team and get into larger facilities and things of that nature, it’s something that Gavin and I have spoken about.

“I think we would be in a position to run a fourth car at the 500 this upcoming year. If we do decide to do that, we’ll make that decision soon for maximum preparation, and I would say we’re open minded to a fourth car in ’24 and beyond and probably will make that decision middle of next year in time to be prepared if we did decide to do that.”

Brown also addressed the future of Alex Palou, who will be racing for Chip Ganassi Racing next season after also signing a deal with McLaren. Though Brown declined to get into specifics about whether Palou had signed a new deal, he confirmed Palou will continue to test “our Formula One car from time to time.

“Everyone has reached an amicable solution,” Brown said. “We’ve now had Alex in our Formula One car as we have Pato. That will continue in the future, which we’re quite excited about. At this point we’re laser-focused on 2023 and glad to have the noise behind us and now just want to put our head down and get on with the job with the three drivers we have.”