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Vettel, Raikkonen disappointed as Ferrari struggles in USGP qualifying

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Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were left disappointed as Ferrari struggled in qualifying for the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas on Saturday, finishing over a second off the pole position lap time.

Ferrari currently ranks third in the Formula 1 constructors’ championship, but remains hopeful of breaking its winless run in 2016 and beating Red Bull to second in the final standings.

However, Raikkonen and Vettel were unable to jump ahead of either the Mercedes or Red Bull drivers in qualifying at the Circuit of The Americas, finishing fifth and sixth respectively in Q3.

Perhaps the most concerning statistic to come out of qualifying was that neither driver was able to finish within a second of pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton, suggesting Ferrari remains far away from its breakthrough victory in 2016.

“Obviously we cannot be pleased with where we finished today, looking at the time difference to the front,” Raikkonen said.

“We did what we could, but our position on the grid is far from ideal. This is the reality today and now we have to be stronger in the race.

“Tomorrow is going to be a long race, the long run was not too bad, so I expect the car we had today to be better tomorrow. For sure we are going to do our best and hopefully we are going to have a strong race.”

“Qualifying was not so good, hopefully the race will go better,” Vettel added.

“Surely we can try and look at different things, learn from today, go forward, and for sure we are not pleased with the gap to the cars ahead. It was not the best session for me: overall it was OK, the car felt fine, but in the end we were not just quick enough.

“For sure in Q3 I could have done a slightly better lap, but at the end of the day obviously we are missing a bit compared to the cars in front, so I think tomorrow could be a different day.

“For tomorrow we’ll see, there’s always a chance to outsmart the people but I think we have to react on the fly. The strategy is set for the beginning, in terms the tires to start the race with, but we kept some new tire sets, so we’ll see.

“It could be an interesting race: tire degradation is always important, it could be playing a big role tomorrow.”

The United States Grand Prix is live on NBC and the NBC Sports app from 2:30pm ET on Sunday.

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.