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Button hit with 50-place grid penalty for Mexican GP

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Jenson Button has been hit with a 50-place grid penalty after McLaren elected to take two new complete power units for this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix.

McLaren has struggled on-track in 2015 thanks to the shortcomings of its Honda power unit, which has forced the team into exceeding the limit of four components permitted by the FIA to be used across the course of the season.

On Friday, the FIA confirmed that McLaren had taken two complete new power units in a bid to give Button a fresh one to race with in Mexico and stock up ahead of the final two races in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.

Button has taken two new internal combustion engines (ICE), taking his tally for the year up to 11. He is also up to 11 turbo chargers (TC), 11 MGU-Hs and 10 MGU-Ks.

“An 11th ICE, 11th TC, 11th MGU-H and 10th MGU-K have been used by car 22,” a statement from the stewards confirmed. “This is a breach of Article 28.4 a) of the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations. In accordance with Article 28.4 f) a 10 grid position penalty is imposed, as this is the first time 11th power unit element has been used.

“Two 5 grid position penalties are imposed for the TC and MGU-H as this is the first time a 11th of any of the remaining elements have been used.

“A 5 grid position penalty is also imposed for the MGU-K as this is the first time a 10th of any of the remaining elements have been used.”

Amounting to 25 places, this stewards’ penalty followed a near-identical earlier in the day regarding Button, leaving him with a drop of 50 places for tomorrow’s race.

In the sister McLaren-Honda, Fernando Alonso has also been forced into taking a new ICE and gearbox, leaving him with a 15-place grid drop for the Mexican Grand Prix that is likely to confine him to the back row of the grid alongside Button.

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.