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Alexander Rossi confirmed in Andretti/Herta IndyCar

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Late word came Monday night from NBCSN IndyCar contributor Robin Miller in a RACER.com post that Alexander Rossi’s next move would, in fact, be to the Verizon IndyCar Series.

The 24-year-old Californian has been confirmed Tuesday as driver of the No. 98 Honda for Andretti Autosport, formerly the Bryan Herta Autosport entry before Andretti Autosport and BHA announced a partnership last week.

“I’m very much looking forward to making my IndyCar Series debut this season and am proud to be racing with a team of such high caliber and pedigree as that of Andretti Autosport,” said Rossi. “As a racer through and through, I cannot wait to get started; our goal is to be competitive immediately at the first race in St. Petersburg.”

His first test will be March 1 at Sebring along with fellow rookie Spencer Pigot of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. So he won’t test this week in Phoenix.

“We’re really excited to have Alexander join the team,” said Andretti Autosport CEO Michael Andretti. “His credentials speak for his ability and we’re confident he’ll transition seamlessly into IndyCar racing. It’s neat to have the last three American F1 drivers in 25 years to be under one roof, I think it speaks to the level of talent we have.”

“Personally, I’m really pleased at how well all these pieces have come into place for this group,” Herta added. “Adding Alexander as a driver is going from strength to strength for us. We can’t wait to get on track together and start our preparation for the 2016 season.”

The move provides Rossi a landing place after being passed over for the final spot on the Formula 1 grid with the Manor Racing MRT squad, and a driver for the Herta-led IndyCar as part of the expected 21-car full-season grid Stateside.

He’ll also be the third Sunoco rookie-of-the-year contender, alongside fellow American who’d had both an international and U.S. focus in Conor Daly and ex-Marussia F1 driver Max Chilton, who raced in the U.S. most of the season last year with Carlin in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires series.

Rossi has U.S. race experience – he’s a past Formula BMW Americas champion – but has opted to focus primarily on Europe for the past several years.

The buildup led Rossi into Formula 1 last season in a five-race cameo with Manor, where he generally outperformed Englishman Will Stevens. Rossi and Stevens were known to be in contention for the second seat that eventually went to Indonesian Rio Haryanto.

With Rossi’s confirmation Tuesday, it leaves just the second Dale Coyne Racing Honda, the No. 19 car, as the lone full-season entry yet to have its driver revealed.

Ed Carpenter Racing’s No. 20 Chevrolet, which Carpenter will drive in oval races, does not yet have a driver for the road and street course races. If one is named, it would bring the field up from 21 expected full-season cars to 22 cars.

Max Verstappen shows speed in Austria; Lewis Hamilton lacking pace

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SPIELBERG, Austria — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen posted the fastest time Friday, and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton lacked pace in the second practice session for the Styrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen was 0.043 seconds quicker than Valtteri Bottas – Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes – and 0.217 ahead of Racing Point driver Sergio Perez.

“The car already feels better than last week, the balance is a lot nicer and we have made a good step,” said Verstappen, who did not finish last Sunday’s season-opening Austrian GP after starting from second.

“It is too early to say how we are looking against Mercedes, but we are quite happy. We have tried a few different directions to understand the car a bit more and we are heading the right way.”

Hamilton was only sixth fastest, about 0.7 seconds slower than Verstappen. Hamilton spent a chunk of time in the garage while his team worked on his car.

“It was quite far off, so there’s a lot of work to do in the background to figure it out,” he said. “Others out there are quick and Valtteri’s obviously got good pace.”

Despite adding a new front wing to its car, struggling Ferrari had a dismal afternoon.

Charles Leclerc was only ninth quickest and 1 second slower than Verstappen, while teammate Sebastian Vettel lagged about 2 seconds behind Verstappen in 16th.

Daniel Ricciardo lost control of his Renault car early into the second session, swerving left off the track and thudding backward into a protective tire wall. He climbed out unharmed, other than a slight limp, but the left rear tire was mangled and the car was lifted off the track by a crane.

Alexander Albon spun twice, the Red Bull driver’s second spin taking him right off the track and into gravel.

Earlier, Perez was fastest in the first practice ahead of Verstappen and Bottas, with Hamilton fourth quickest and Vettel only 10th in sunny conditions.

That session was briefly interrupted when Nicholas Latifi’s Williams car pulled over to the side with a gearbox issue.

The incident brought out yellow flags, forcing drivers to slow down. But McLaren driver Lando Norris overtook Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and got a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

Norris, 20, finished third at the Austrian GP last weekend, becoming the youngest British driver in F1 history to get on the podium and third youngest in F1.

The upcoming race is changing names from last week but is at the same track. It is surrounded by the Styrian mountains.

A third and final practice will be held on Saturday morning before qualifying in the afternoon, with heavy rain and storms in the forecast.

If third practice and qualifying are washed out, drivers take their grid positions from where they placed in second practice.

“It would definitely suck if we didn’t get to qualify,” said Hamilton, who started fifth and finished fourth last weekend. “It would make it challenging.”

However, qualifying also could be moved to Sunday morning.

“I don’t expect to be on pole position with this (practice) lap,” Verstappen said.