Force India focused on continuing its form in Austria

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Since its relatively lackluster start with only eight points achieved from the first four Grands Prix, Sahara Force India has been on a roll since the start of the traditional European season in Spain, having banked 51 points and two podiums from Sergio Perez in the last three races.

They’ve vaulted back to fifth in the Constructor’s Championship as a result, with the upgrades that debuted at Barcelona proving positive.

The team remains focused on 2016 despite talks that the focus could shift to its 2017 package instead. At 31 points back of Williams, fourth is not an unachievable target for the Silverstone-based team.

“There has been a lot of talk about the team switching focus to 2017, but this doesn’t mean we won’t be strong for the rest of 2016,” team principal Vijay Mallya said in the team’s pre-race release. “There is a lot of performance still to be extracted from our current package and I am confident we can put on a good show in the races to come. Having scored two podiums in three races, we’ve got a taste for success and I would like to see us pick up more silverware before the end of the year.”

Perez, who now sits eighth in the Driver’s Championship, has been quick at Austria before and could well continue his run of form this weekend.

“I am still smiling about the podium we scored in Baku,” he said. “It was an amazing weekend for us. We got the calls right; we executed our race plan perfectly and we finished in the top three on merit. I feel very proud of my team and I think it was one of my most competitive races in Formula One. It wasn’t a completely smooth weekend with the gearbox penalty pushing us backwards on the grid, but we were able to overcome the difficulties, which made it an even sweeter result.

“I travel to Austria on a high and determined to deliver another strong result. This race is one of my favourites because the track is nice to drive and I enjoy the atmosphere with the fans camping around the circuit. There are lots of elevation changes and some challenging corners: you cannot make mistakes in any of them or it will cost you a lot of time on the straights. It’s also a short lap so the gaps between the cars are always very small and that makes for a very tight grid.”

Nico Hulkenberg, meanwhile, will look to emulate or better his sixth place result in Austria last year as he looks to get ahead of Perez this weekend.

“I love racing in Spielberg and it’s a great addition to the calendar,” he said. “The backdrop to the track, with the Alps, is spectacular, and there is an old school vibe to the circuit, which I enjoy. The atmosphere is very relaxed and lots of German fans make the short trip over the border so it almost feels like a home race for me.

“We look strong coming to Austria but we’re not taking anything for granted. The track is fun and it has a very nice flow, but it can easily catch you out, especially the last few corners, which are quite technical. I had a great race in Austria last year and have a good feeling about this weekend. The car is working well and we’ve taken a big step forward since the start of the year so there is the potential for another good result.”

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.”