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Red Bull targeting Mercedes F1 challenge in 2017

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Helmut Marko says that Red Bull is targeting a challenge to Mercedes’ Formula 1 supremacy in 2017, believing that upcoming engine gains will put it in contention at the front of the pack once again.

Red Bull dominated F1 between 2010 and 2013, winning the drivers’ and constructors’ championship throughout the four-year period with Sebastian Vettel as team leader.

Following the change from V8 engines to the V6 turbo power units for 2014, Red Bull has struggled to emulate this form, claiming just four race wins since then.

2016 has seen Red Bull enter battle with Ferrari for second in the standings, but is still some way off Mercedes at the top.

Speaking to the official F1 website, Red Bull motorsport advisor Marko said the target is to cut this gap for next season.

“We’ve always done well when there is a regulation change that doesn’t only focus on the engine,” Marko said.

“The work on our engine is developing in the right direction, so in 2017 we should be within around 15 horsepower [of Mercedes].

“This we can compensate for. So our aim is to challenge Mercedes next season.

“The numbers that the engineers are finding look very good. Of course the track will give the final answer.

“But as our clear objective is to beat Mercedes, next year the numbers better be good!”

Marko also envisages greater synergy between Red Bull and its junior F1 team, Toro Rosso, as both teams will be using Renault power units once again. Toro Rosso switched to year-old Ferrari units in 2016.

“We try to have as much [synergy] as possible, first of all for cost reasons and then for performance reasons,” Marko said.

“Whatever the regulations permit we will do – probably not to the full extent next year as Toro Rosso cannot work as quickly as Red Bull Racing, but I expect that this will change over a period of two years.”

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.