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Horner: Renault power unit gains ‘exactly what was promised’

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Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner heaped praise on Renault for its recent power units gains after showing a competitive pace throughout the Monaco Grand Prix weekend.

Daniel Ricciardo claimed Red Bull’s first Formula 1 pole position since the end of 2013 on Saturday before finishing second in the race, arguably having the quickest car of any driver.

The Australian was disappointed to lose the race win after a mistake by Red Bull in the pits cost him 10 seconds, handing the lead to Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.

Despite this setback, team boss Horner took the positives out of the weekend, saying that the upgrades Renault had delivered were exactly as promised.

“At Monte Carlo it gave us exactly what was promised, which was about 0.2 seconds,” Horner said.

“That certainly helped to achieve pole position, so hats off to everyone in Viry, they are doing a great job at the moment.

“The TAG Heuer power unit is performing better and better.”

Red Bull spent the majority of last year criticizing Renault for issues with its power unit, prompting the team to explore a supply from Mercedes, Ferrari and even Honda for 2016.

Ultimately, it was forced to stick with Renault – rebranding the power units as TAG Heuer – but has since agreed a two-year extension to their agreement.

“A lot of restructuring and hard work has gone on at Viry over the last six to nine months,” Horner said.

“We’re just starting to see that the organizational changes there are starting to bear fruits, so it makes sense to extend a relationship that is working well for a further two seasons.”

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.