Haas’ F1 honeymoon ends with ‘horrific’ race in China

© Haas F1 Team
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Haas’ Formula 1 honeymoon came to an end in Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix as drivers Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez endured difficult races at the Shanghai International Circuit.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas saw his new F1 operation become the first start-up team in 14 years to score points on debut in Australia when Grosjean finished sixth.

The Frenchman followed this up with a fifth place finish in Bahrain, giving him plenty of confidence heading to China this weekend.

However, setup issues blighted Grosjean all weekend long, leaving him to ail to a lowly 19th place finish on his 30th birthday.

“It was a horrific race,” Grosjean said. “The start was terrible when [Marcus] Ericsson turned into me and got my front wing.

“From there we had the safety car and I thought, ‘OK, we still have a chance to do something.’ But the balance in the car was nowhere near good. I don’t know what happened.

“Somehow, it’s positive that we had such a difficult race, because we can analyze what we did wrong, what we did right and what we could have done differently.

“From there, we can come back stronger. It’s a difficult one after the two first races. Not the birthday I was hoping for.”

There was however another ‘first’ for Haas in China as it saw both cars make it to the end of the race, with Esteban Gutierrez finishing 14th.

Gutierrez retired in Australia and Bahrain, so was pleased to take the checkered flag in a grand prix for the first time since the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but was hamstrung by an issue with the DRS on his car.

“It was fun out there today and to finish the race was a big step. I think we can now build on this performance as we prepare for Russia,” Gutierrez said.

“I really want to thank the guys because they’re doing a great job. The pit stops were fantastic, really consistent. Unfortunately, we didn’t have DRS, so it was difficult to overtake, but overall it was a solid race.

“We now need to finish inside the points and that’s what we’ll be focusing on, so I’m really looking forward to the next one.”

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing
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Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”