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London Formula E race to leave Battersea Park after season finale

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LONDON – The upcoming London ePrix on July 2 and 3 will be the last to be held at Battersea Park after Formula E officials came to an agreement to move the event with the local council this week.

Ever since its addition to the Formula E schedule for season one, the race at Battersea Park has been subject to a persistent and spirited protest from a group of locals who sought to protect one of London’s most-visited parks.

Formula E team bosses were given a draft calendar for season three over the Berlin ePrix weekend that omitted London from the schedule ahead of a planned High Court review this week that put July’s event in doubt.

However, this was called off after Wandsworth Council issued a statement on Tuesday confirming it had come to an agreement with Formula E that ensures the season two finale will be the last to be held at Battersea Park.

“Formula E has notified us that they will be holding their final races in Battersea Park this summer and that from 2017 onwards they will be seeking alternative locations,” Wandsworth Council’s community services spokesman Cllr Jonathan Cook said in a statement.

“Our understanding is that this now includes the possibility of a street circuit in central London, which has always been their preferred option but was not previously possible.”

Reports emerged following the news that the race would move from Battersea suggesting that a possible circuit being explored would centre on Buckingham Palace and incorporate some of London’s other most iconic landmarks.

Recent races in Paris and Berlin have been hugely successful in the very heart of the city, but nothing has been confirmed for London for the future.

“We’ve had preliminary conversations with the Greater London Authority, but there’s been no permission or route authorized yet,” Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag told the London Evening Standard.

“I love Battersea Park, but you’re effectively in a park and all you see is trees — this would be a view of London’s landmarks.”

A spokesperson for the recently-elected Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “The Mayor intends to work with FIA Formula E to explore other sites in the capital.”

London is not the only race that is at risk of not returning in season three, with Beijing, Putrajaya and Punta del Este also omitted from the schedule.

As reported by motorsport.com last weekend, six new races are set to join the fray including double-header events in Montreal and New York in the summer of 2017.

Other possible new rounds include Singapore, Brussels and Marrakesh, while the season-opener in Hong Kong has already been announced.

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.