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Double points haul in Germany draws Force India close to Williams in constructors’ championship

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Force India moved to within 15 points of fourth place in the Formula 1 constructors’ championship after a double-points finish in Sunday’s German Grand Prix.

Despite being hit with a one-place grid penalty on Saturday, Nico Hulkenberg spent much of his race inside the top 10 before passing Williams’ Valtteri Bottas for seventh place late on.

“Seventh was probably the best result available to us today, so it feels good to get the maximum from our race and score some important points,” Hulkenberg said after the race.

“The team did a great job with the strategy because we went into the race believing a two-stopper was possible, but then made an early decision to switch to three stops. It was definitely the right way to go and allowed me to take seventh place in the final few laps.

“So it’s a happy Nico and a happy team. We can look forward to the summer break and aim to carry this momentum forward in the second part of the season.”

After a poor start, teammate Sergio Perez battled his way into the top 10 late on, passing the ailing Fernando Alonso before finishing 10th to score a point.

“It’s safe to say today was the worst start in my whole career,” Perez said.

“I had a lot of wheelspin at the start and dropped back to P16 – so it was a long fight back through the pack.

“The team had to think on their feet and tweak the strategy to get me back into a competitive position. Degradation was quite high, especially when following other cars, and I spent a lot of time in the middle of the race fighting with Fernando.

“In the last few laps I was running out of tires, but I knew Fernando was in a similar situation, so when I saw an opportunity I knew I had to take it. I honestly didn’t think we would score points after turn one, but we did it.”

Bottas was Williams’ sole points’ scorer in P9 after Felipe Massa suffered early damage that eventually forced him to retire, allowing Force India to close up in the constructors’ championship. The gap between the two teams now stands at 15 points.

“With Valtteri, we tried a strategy which clearly didn’t work. We deployed the wrong tactics in the race, which is something we’ve got to learn from,” Williams head of performance engineering Rob Smedley said.

“As a group of people, we get it right most of the time, but today we didn’t. We thought the tires would go to the end but they didn’t and so ninth was the best we could achieve, unfortunately.

“It hasn’t been a great day but this is where we see the mettle of everyone moving forward and make sure we don’t let our heads go down.

“We’ll carry on improving and trying to do the absolute maximum that we can do with the car that we’ve got. We’ll keep pushing on.”

Formula 1 returns with the Belgian Grand Prix on August 28 at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will race IndyCar stars in iRacing at Michigan

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The invite has been received, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. has another iRacing event on his schedule.

The NASCAR on NBC analyst tweeted Wednesday that he will make his debut in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge with Saturday’s race at Michigan Speedway. The race will be shown live on NBCSN at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

The 2-mile oval was chosen by IndyCar drivers as the third track in the six-race series. Earnhardt heartily endorsed Michigan as a potential iRacing venue Monday along with Daytona and Talladega. Michigan nearly was selected by fans as the opener in the iRacing Challenge.

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Earnhardt, a longtime avid iRacing fan, had been lobbying since last Thursday that he was interested in racing with IndyCar drivers.

He has driven in the first three races of the eNASCAR Pro Invitational, finishing second to Denny Hamlin in the opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Last year, he attended his first Indianapolis 500, working as an analyst as part of NBC Sports’ inaugural broadcast of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

“I’d love to do it,” Earnhardt said Monday about joining the IndyCar iRacing Challenge. “I think I’d love to get to know those guys.

“I had such a great time at the Indy 500 last year, and the reception that I received from other drivers there really meant a lot to me. So I know they’re all a lot of great dudes in that series that I already know that I’d love to get to know some of them even better.”

It already has been quite the week for Earnhardt, who was announced Monday as one of 15 nominees for the 2021 NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The field for Saturday’s race at Michigan should include another  NASCAR driver in Jimmie Johnson. The seven-time Cup champion has driven the first two races of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge (and has plans to race IndyCar part time in the future).