Rosberg storms to fourth straight pole position in Mexico

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Nico Rosberg will start Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix from pole position after setting the pace at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on Saturday afternoon.

Rosberg produced a fine lap during the final stage of qualifying to score his fourth consecutive pole position, heading up a Mercedes one-two ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton.

Rosberg set the early pace in Q3, and his lap midway through the session was enough for pole as the track cooled, preventing drivers from going any quicker with their final flying laps.

Hamilton was forced to settle for second place on the grid, finishing less than two-tenths of a second shy of Rosberg at the front. Sebastian Vettel followed the Mercedes duo in P3 a further two-tenths back.

Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo made good on Red Bull’s impressive practice pace to qualify fourth and fifth respectively, finishing ahead of Valtteri Bottas. Home hero Sergio Perez paid for opting not to go out early, finishing ninth. Force India teammate Nico Hulkenberg rounded out the top ten.

Felipe Massa and Max Verstappen both managed to edge into Q3 with late Q2 laps, allowing them to qualify seventh and eighth respectively. Their progress came at the expense of Carlos Sainz Jr. and Romain Grosjean, who will start 11th and 12th tomorrow ahead of Pastor Maldonado and Marcus Ericsson.

Kimi Raikkonen’s slim hopes of ending his 100-race pole drought were extinguished completely in Q2 when a brake problem caused him to spin at turn one, forcing the Finn to bring his qualifying to an early end. Finishing 15th, Raikkonen will drop down to 18th for the start of the race by virtue of his grid penalty.

McLaren’s difficult weekend continued as a signal problem on Jenson Button’s power unit forced the Briton to miss qualifying, leaving him 20th on the grid. Teammate Fernando Alonso fared little better, dropping out of Q1 in 16th place ahead of Sauber’s Felipe Nasr and the Manor duo of Alexander Rossi and Will Stevens.

Rosberg may not be able to win the drivers’ championship, but the German will be looking to end his four-month win drought on Sunday as he bids to finish the year as runner-up to Hamilton.

However, having converted just two of his last ten poles into a race win, Rosberg will know that he must break with his recent form if he is to become the first winner of the Mexican Grand Prix since Nigel Mansell back in 1992.

The Mexican Grand Prix is live on NBC and Live Extra from 1:30pm 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.