Force India’s Mallya, Renault’s Abiteboul clash over F1 2017 chances

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Force India owner Vijay Mallya and Renault Formula 1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul have clashed following comments made by the latter regarding the chances of privateer teams in 2017.

Force India finished as the leading privateer outfit in 2016, securing its best-ever constructors’ championship result of P4 at the end of the season, while Renault struggled during its first year back in F1 as a constructor, ending up ninth.

2017 sees the introduction of new technical regulations that are set to shake up the pecking order, with the rate of development also set to become more intense through the campaign.

Abiteboul told reporters earlier this week that he thought private teams such as Force India would struggle to keep up with its manufacturer rivals, believing that 2017 would become an “arms race”.

“I think this season will also really be an arms race,” Abiteboul said, as quoted by crash.net.

“I really feel for the teams who are under-resourced because clearly when I see this car that we are presenting today is not the car that will test in Barcelona and the car in Barcelona is not the car that will race in Melbourne.

“I think most of the car build budget for Force India will be gone by now just to cope with the new regulations. So that is something that we are also taking into account.

“With the level of resources that we have we should be easily capable of beating teams like Haas, like Force India and so on and so forth.”

Mallya hit back during Force India’s car launch on Wednesday, saying that he hoped Abiteboul would come to regret his comments.

“We have always dreamed big. We have never had conversations even in private that we cannot break into the top three,” Mallya said.

“That is going to be our objective. We will certainly give it our best shot.

“I read an article this morning where Renault’s Cyril Abiteboul said teams like Force India may struggle in an arms race. Good luck to him. He may have to eat his words.

“It’s not the amount of arms you have, but the quality of your weaponry.”

Mallya also fired back at Abiteboul on Twitter late on Wednesday evening.

Force India and Renault will go head-to-head on-track for the first time in 2017 at the Australian Grand Prix on March 26.

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

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Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”