Verstappen charges from 16th to P3 in China, early laps like a video game

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Max Verstappen produced one of the outstanding displays of Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix by charging from 16th on the grid to finish third, scoring Red Bull’s 100th podium finish in Formula 1.

Verstappen qualified 19th on Saturday due to an engine issue on his Red Bull RB13, but started 16th following a handful of grid penalties for the cars around him.

With moves reminiscent of his charge through the pack in Brazil last year, Verstappen scythed through the field on the opening lap, rising from 16th to seventh.

Verstappen ran as high as second after passes on Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo on slick tires, but could not stop Sebastian Vettel from taking the position back later in the race, leaving him to settle for third.

“Yeah it was very challenging. I think lap one I passed nine cars, so yeah not too bad,” Verstappen said.

When asked if the first lap felt like a video game, Verstappen said: “More or less. It felt a bit like that. I was very happy about that.

“Then afterwards I think it was a very good race. I didn’t have a lot of track time with the car balance from yesterday because of qualifying yesterday, I was basically nursing the car to the finish.

“Of course [I’m] very happy to be on the podium. I didn’t expect that at all, starting 16th.”

While it did not quite match the lofty heights of his charge to the podium in Brazil last year, Verstappen said the race would definitely rank in the top five of his career.

“I always find it difficult to compare but it’s definitely one of the best. Of course I’m very happy with it,” Verstappen said.

“Looking back to last year, obviously a victory is very special, one of my best for the moment, and Brazil was also very nice.

“But this is definitely in my top five.’

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

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
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.”