Associated Press

Rosberg paces opening day of second Barcelona test

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The Mercedes W07 picked up right where it left off from last week at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, to again top the timesheets in the opening day of the second four-day preseason test.

Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton again split the day’s running, with Rosberg ending on top on Tuesday with a best time of 1:23.022 on Pirelli’s soft tires.

More to the point, the staggering reliability continued with Rosberg running 82 laps in the morning before turning the car over to Hamilton for the afternoon.

Valtteri Bottas, on Pirelli’s ultrasoft compound, was second quickest at 1:23.229 for Williams Martini Racing in the FW38 Mercedes.

Both of those cars were more than a second clear of the rest of the field, with Fernando Alonso third in the McLaren MP4-31 Honda (1:24.735), Kimi Raikkonen fourth in the Ferrari SF-16 (1:24.836) and Daniil Kvyat fifth in the Red Bull RB12 (1:25.049). Raikkonen set his best time on the medium tires with Alonso and Kvyat on the softs.

Five drivers clocked in more than 100 laps today, with Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen delivering the most at 144 laps in the STR11 chassis, which saw its new livery premiere today.

Sauber turned in more than 100 laps in the first day of running with the C35 chassis, in the hands of Felipe Nasr. Nasr’s best time was 1:25.493.

Meanwhile Haas F1 Team hit issues for the first time after its impressive first week, with a fuel system issue halting Esteban Gutierrez’s day early after barely more than 20 laps.

Renault also had a late stoppage with Kevin Magnussen at Turn 3 in the RS16, but the Dane still completed more than 100 laps on the day.

Times from the day are below, with Paddock Pass – the NBC Sports Group original digital series featuring Will Buxton and Jason Swales – set to go live later today for the first episode of the year after today’s test. We’ll have it for you on when it goes live.

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.