Hamilton: “I’m in the best place I’ve ever been”

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Lewis Hamilton heads to this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix in the best place he has ever been psychologically despite trailing Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in the Formula 1 championship standings.

Hamilton started both of the first two races of the season from pole position, but poor getaways from the line caused him to drop down the order. Meanwhile he’ll have a different challenge this weekend, with a five-spot grid penalty assessed for a gearbox change.

The Briton recovered to second in Australia and third in Bahrain, meaning he arrives in China this weekend trailing Rosberg by 17 points after he claimed successive victories.

“It’s not been a smooth start to the season for me, so to be in the championship position I’m in right now is actually pretty positive,” Hamilton said.

“If you can have two bad races and still come away with two podiums, that bodes pretty well. I’ve come back from worse, that’s for sure!”

Hamilton said he is unconcerned about the deficit to Rosberg, saying he feels comfortable with himself and that little will change that.

“People keep asking me if I’m worried, if there’s a downward trend emerging. But I’m feeling the complete opposite,” Hamilton said.

“There are no real flaws in our procedure and how we’re working, so I know it’s going to come good. On a personal level too, I’m in the best place I’ve ever been psychologically. There’s very little, if anything at all, that can penetrate that.

“There’s a long, long way to go, so I’ll just keep working as hard as I have been. Now we go to China for the next battle. It’s a track that’s been good to me over the years, with five poles and four wins, so hopefully this race can be the turning point.”

The Chinese Grand Prix is live across NBCSN and Live Extra this weekend.

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

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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.”