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Horner: Mercedes still F1 title favorite despite regulation changes

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Red Bull Formula 1 chief Christian Horner believes that Mercedes is still the favorite to claim both championships in 2017 despite a change in the technical regulations for the new season.

Mercedes has dominated proceedings in F1 since the introduction of the new V6 turbo power units in 2014, taking three straight championship doubles.

2017 will see a seismic change in the regulations, placing a greater onus on aerodynamic design and tire management, leading many to tip Red Bull to challenge Mercedes’ supremacy.

“It feels like we are building momentum. 2016 has been all about building that momentum and there is a feeling of real optimism within the team,” Horner told Sky Sports.

“If we can nudge a bit closer on the engine [and] chassis we are hoping to come up with a good car to give our guys the tools to fight Mercedes next year.”

While Horner is confident that Red Bull drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen can take the fight to Mercedes in 2017 given the right car, he still expects the German marque to be the strongest team even with the regulation tweaks.

“2017 is a clean sheet of paper and no one knows where the opposition are. We’ve been quite good with regulation changes before, but nothing can be taken for granted.

“We are hoping similar progress can be made with the engine, and if that happens I think we have two very capable drivers of taking the fight to Mercedes.

“Mercedes will be the favorites heading into next year, but if we can narrow that gap down and put them under a bit of pressure it would be great for everyone.”

Red Bull finished second in last year’s constructors’ championship, claiming two race victories to deny Mercedes a clean sweep of wins through the season.

Andretti Autosport picks James Hinchcliffe for last 3 races of season

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James Hinchcliffe will finish the NTT IndyCar Series season for Andretti Autosport, replacing Zach Veach in the No. 26 Dallara-Honda.

The team made the announcement Friday afternoon that Hinchcliffe will return after racing for Andretti at Texas Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and the Indianapolis 500.

Hinchcliffe, who also has worked as an IndyCar on NBC analyst and pit reporter, will race in the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida.

“It’s always unfortunate to have to change drivers this far into a season, but we have to look at finishing the year the best we can for the 26 team and start evaluating and looking at options for 2021,” team owner Michael Andretti said in a release. “James has an existing relationship with our team that we’d love to build on and it makes the most sense for him to step in for these last three races. We are looking forward to seeing what he can do.”

Hinchcliffe has a season-best finish of seventh in the Indy 500. He had been working on trying to put together a deal for next season after scrambling to secure a partial schedule this year when he lost his ride at Arrow McLaren SP after 2020 with a year left on his deal.

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“I know, probably better than most, what Zach is feeling right now, and I have to say that he has handled everything about as class act as you can,” Hinchcliffe said. “I’ve known Zach as a teammate, before that as a colleague and even before that as a friend, and he is a guy that I respect in every way. I know he is a fighter and will fight back to where he wants to be.

“For me now, my focus is 100% on racing the Harvest GP and getting the best possible results for Gainbridge, for Honda, for Michael and for the team. I obviously haven’t been on a road course in a while, but at least the last time I was, it was here at IMS! Hopefully that puts us in a good position to go out there and have a strong weekend.”