George Russell takes pole for Macau GP qualification race

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British youngster George Russell will start Saturday’s qualification race for the Macau Grand Prix from pole position after topping the timesheets on Friday for Hitech GP.

Russell, 18, signed up for Macau after finishing his sophomore year in the FIA European Formula 3 Championship third in the standings with two wins to his name.

After finishing 13th in the first qualifying session on Thursday, Russell shot to the front of the pack in the second round on Friday, edging out fellow Briton Callum Ilott by three-tenths of a second.

In a session interrupted by three red flag periods, Russell was able to turn in a lap of 2:10.100 to secure pole for Saturday’s qualification race, with his rivals being denied a final shot at pole after a late stoppage that brought the session to an early end.

Ilott was left to settle for second despite controlling much of the session, his best time 0.370 seconds down on Russell, while Formula E driver Antonio Felix da Costa ended up third-fastest.

Red Bull junior Sergio Sette Camara slotted into fourth ahead of Japanese F3 champion Kenta Yamashita, with British racer Jake Hughes following in sixth after the final red flag denied him the chance to improve his lap time late on.

FIA F3 vice-champion Maximillian Günther wound up seventh ahead of defending Macau champion Felix Rosenqvist as European Formula Renault champion Lando Norris and New Zealand’s Nick Cassidy rounded out the top 10.

The results of Saturday’s qualification race will set the grid for the 63rd Macau Grand Prix 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.