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Tost: No change in Toro Rosso atmosphere since driver change

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TURIN, Italy – Scuderia Toro Rosso Formula 1 team principal Franz Tost says he has seen no difference in the atmosphere at Faenza since the change in driver line-up after the Russian Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen was fast-tracked up to Toro Rosso’s senior team, Red Bull, for the Spanish Grand Prix, with Daniil Kvyat moving in the opposite direction.

One motive for the move was to defuse any tension building at Toro Rosso between Verstappen and teammate Carlos Sainz Jr., who remains with the team and is set to stay on for 2017.

At the FIA Sport Conference in Turin earlier this week, Tost was asked whether he had noticed a change in the atmosphere at Toro Rosso since the driver change was made.

“I think that we have quite a good professional atmosphere, but it’s important that the drivers feel good,” Tost said.

“I don’t see or I haven’t observed a big change.”

As part of the changes at the team, former Marussia and Manor F1 president John Booth joined the team on a consultancy basis as director of racing in tandem with his commitments in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

When asked by NBC Sports what effect Booth’s arrival had on the team, Tost said: “It was good.

“John came in, he’s experienced, he can support us on the strategy side and regarding matters for the race team.”

Tost also confirmed that the decision to bring in Booth had been largely taken by the senior Red Bull team.

“It was a combination [between Toro Rosso and Red Bull] that was coming from Red Bull.”

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.