Red flag delays scupper China FP1 running, Verstappen quickest for Red Bull

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Max Verstappen led Red Bull to the top of the timesheets in opening Formula 1 practice for the Chinese Grand Prix, squeezing a lap in as the majority of the session was red flagged due to poor weather conditions.

FP1 started with rain falling and was suspended after just four minutes when race control reported that the medical helicopter was unable to land at the local airport due to the poor visibility and weather conditions.

A 30-minute delay followed as conditions improved marginally, with the session eventually returning to green and allowing drivers to get out on the intermediate tire.

Verstappen managed to put in a lap of 1:50.491 for Red Bull, finishing 1.5 seconds faster than the rest of the field, but running was soon scrapped once again when Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg spun off at Turn 2. With his car beached, Hulkenberg had to walk back to the pits, with the marshals left to recover the R.S.17.

Minutes later, the session was red flagged once again, with race control declaring that the local airport had been closed entirely due to the poor weather conditions.

The final 25 minutes of the session ticked by without any track activity, with the checkered flag eventually emerging to bring an end to a largely fruitless practice for the F1 field.

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

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AJ Foyt Racing
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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.”