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Rossi confirmed for Andretti Autosport extension

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The mystery of where Alexander Rossi will drive in 2017 has been answered, with the 24-year-old American and 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil champion confirmed to continue with Andretti-Herta Autosport into the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

Rossi was confirmed Monday by the Andretti Autosport team as that team’s third driver for next season alongside with Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti, both of whom are locked in multi-year contracts. No length of contract was announced and the team continues to seek a fourth car for next year.

“What an incredible eight months this has been,” Rossi said in a release, “from getting the opportunity to join the Verizon IndyCar Series in February, to winning the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 in May and now re-signing with Andretti Autosport.

“I am incredibly proud and grateful to be able to have the opportunity to work with a team of this caliber as we chase after more race wins and continue to make our mark in this amazing championship. I want to thank Michael [Andretti], JF [Thormann], Bryan [Herta] and Honda for the faith and trust they have in me to put the Andretti name at the front. We have a lot of work ahead of us and we are already completely focused on being back at the sharp end of the grid where we belong.”

“Alexander showed tremendous growth this year and we are excited to welcome him back to the team,” team owner Michael Andretti added. “In his first IndyCar season, Alexander was able to form trusting relationships with the team’s engineers, mechanics and his teammates and that itself is a great foundation to begin 2017. We also know he is competitive and can win races.

“Continuity plays a big role in the success of our programs and being able to confirm that Alexander is remaining with the team is incredible. His extension, along with Ryan [Hunter-Reay] and Marco’s [Andretti] continuance is a promising factor for not only the team, but the series as well.”

The confirmation of Rossi in the Andretti-Herta entry ends speculation Marco Andretti could be moved there.

“Knowing that Alexander will be returning to the No. 98 Andretti-Herta Autosport car provides us with the stability and continuity we need to strive for even higher results,” said co-owner of the No. 98 entry, Bryan Herta. “Last season showed great progress, and I could not be more excited about our prospects moving forward. Last season we were late in the game putting our deal together. This winter we are focused on the season ahead, the continuation of our successful partnership with Andretti Autosport, and seeing Alexander become a consistent winner in the Verizon IndyCar series.”

Commercial partners were not announced but of note, Tip Tollison, President of NAPA Balkamp in Indianapolis, was on site at the season finale weekend in Sonoma. The Indianapolis branch of NAPA Auto Parts stepped up at the last minute as primary sponsor for Rossi’s No. 98 Andretti-Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda entry at Indianapolis this year.

Additionally, the version of that car – adorned in full NAPA signage – was staged at Honda’s paddock display at Sonoma Raceway.

Rossi scored that shock, but famous, victory as a rookie in Indianapolis this year – which highlighted his name on the world stage to go along with what he worked up to as a rookie in Formula 1 for the five Grands Prix he raced with Manor this year.

Rossi’s future was a talking point over the summer months, with the Californian making it clear to take it on a weekend-by-weekend focus while not losing sight of his overall goals, growth and development within the championship. He’s certainly appreciated and embraced the level of competition he’s seen within the Verizon IndyCar Series this year.

F1 tests: Mercedes innovates with wheel adjustment system

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MONTMELÓ, Spain — Veteran Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time on the second day of Formula One preseason testing on Thursday, but Mercedes still garnered more attention by introducing an innovative wheel adjustment system.

On-board footage showed defending champion Lewis Hamilton pulling the steering wheel back and forth on the front straight to apparently change the angle of the front wheels on his Mercedes car.

The team stayed tight-lipped about the car’s new feature but guaranteed it was “safe” and “legal.”

“I probably won’t shed a great deal more light than what you saw on the TV but yeah we have a system in the car, it’s a novel idea,” team technical director James Allison told F1 TV. ”We’ve got a name for it, it’s called DAS, if you’re interested, and it just introduces an extra dimension for the steering, for the driver, which we hope will be useful during the year. But precisely how we use it and why we use it, that’s something we will keep to ourselves.”

Allison said governing body FIA knew in advance that the team was introducing the new system.

“It’s something we’ve been talking to them (about) for some time,” he said. “The rules are pretty clear about what’s permitted on steering systems and we’re pretty confident that it matches those requirements. I’m pleased we got it on the car, it seems to be useful, and we’ll see over the coming days how it benefits us.”

Hamilton said he was still trying to get used to the system, but praised the team for coming up with the innovation.

“I’ve only had one morning on (it, so) I don’t really have a lot to talk about with it. We’re trying to get on top of it, understand it, but safety-wise no problem today and the FIA are OK with the project.

“For me it’s really encouraging to see that my team is continuing to innovate and stay ahead of the game, and I think that’s down to the great minds in the team and so hopefully that’ll work to our benefit.”

Hamilton led the time charts on Wednesday but was only ninth-fastest on Thursday.

MORE: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas fastest in Day 1 of F1 practice
MORE: Sergio Perez fastest early on Day 2 of F1 Practice

The 40-year-old Raikkonen, who has a chance this season to break the record for most race starts in F1, was fastest with a time of 1 minute, 17.091 seconds in his Alfa Romea. He was 0.2 seconds quicker than Sergio Pérez with Racing Point. Daniel Ricciardo of Renault was third.

Raikkonen caused a red flag near the end of the afternoon session when his car stopped on the track with an apparent mechanical issue. The Finnish driver had spun earlier in the session, as did Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes, Romain Grosjean of Haas and Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, formerly known as Toro Rosso.

Grosjean had the most laps among the 13 drivers who went to the track on Thursday, with 158.

Bottas was the slowest driver of the day, while Sebastian Vettel was sixth-fastest with Ferrari.

Pérez had set the quickest time in the morning session. The Mexican driver had been third fastest on Wednesday, behind Hamilton and Bottas.

Drivers will be back on the track on Friday to close out the first week of testing. Teams will have another three days to test next week.

Preseason testing has been reduced from eight to six days to help compensate for the record 22 races on the calendar, including a new Vietnam Grand Prix and the return of the Dutch GP. Midseason testing also has been eliminated.

The season opens on March 15 at the Australian GP.

The Barcelona-Catalunya track will host the Spanish GP on May 10.