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Button gets empty penalty for Wehrlein clash on last F1 showing

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Jenson Button’s second farewell to Formula 1 ended in the same fashion as his first when he was forced to retire from Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix following a bizarre clash with Sauber driver Pascal Wehrlein.

Button started from the pit lane in Monaco after an engine penalty, and spent the majority of his race staring at Wehrlein’s diffuser after both opted to pit on the opening lap.

Growing increasingly frustrated with his “painful” race, Button tried to lunge down the inside of Wehrlein at Portier, one of the tighest points on the circuit, on Lap 57.

The contact tipped Wehrlein’s car into the air before coming to rest on its side up against the wall at Portier. While the German driver escaped from the car unharmed, he was not able to get out until the marshals had righted the car.

“The most important thing is that Pascal is OK. It’s unusual to see a car go on its side,” Button told NBCSN after the race.

“I thought I was well alongside him when we got to the corner and then I noticed he hadn’t seen me. I tried to back out but it was too late.

“The important thing is that he got out OK. I saw him a minute ago and he’s obviously a little bit shaken, but he’s fine. It was a slow speed accident but you never know with tire barriers when a car tips.

“Up to that point it was pretty tough. The pace was good when I had clear air, but none of it really matters.

“Yesterday was a great day, and I’ll remember yesterday, that’s the main thing.”

Despite being cleared by the medical crew in Monaco, Wehrlein confirmed after the clash that he will require another check in the coming days for fear of aggravating his pre-season injury.

“I am feeling OK after the accident. I could get out of the car by myself and went for the usual medical examination,” Wehrlein said.

“As my head touched the barriers, it will be decided within the coming days if I need another medical investigation, also because of the previous thoracic vertebra injury.

“I am very upset as this is a result of an unnecessary overtaking maneuver, bearing in mind that Jenson and I were both on a similar strategy with the pit stop in the first lap, far off from points.

“An annoying incident which should not have happened.”

The stewards sided with Wehrlein and deemed Button to be at fault, handing the Briton a three-place grid penalty for his next F1 race – a sanction he is highly unlikely to ever serve.

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.