Renault leapfrogs Toro Rosso for P6 in constructors’ at season finale

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Renault arguably emerged as the biggest winner from Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after leapfrogging Toro Rosso in the final Formula 1 constructors’ standings, securing an uplift in prize money in the process for sixth place.

Renault entered the final race of the year trailing Toro Rosso by four points in the constructors’ standings, with Hulkenberg qualifying seventh on Saturday.

The German was hit with a five-second time penalty for cutting a corner in order to stay ahead of Sergio Perez on the opening lap, but was able to pull clear to make up for it through the opening stint.

Despite a slow pit stop, Hulkenberg held position after serving the penalty and finished six seconds clear of Perez at the checkered flag, bagging eight points for Renault.

With Toro Rosso failing to score after Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly took P15 and P16 respectively, Hulkenberg’s points haul was enough to lift Renault up to sixth in the final standings, clinching the additional prize money in the process.

“I knew that I had the five-second gap over Checo,” Hulkenberg told NBCSN. “I knew that. I made sure in the first stint that I had that.

“When I started to realize the pit stop was a bit longer and that I had some trouble on the rear-left, the rear-right, I was starting to get a bit nervous and starting to sweat.

“When you go down and out of the pit lane out of that tunnel, there is very little grip. It’s just a balancing act. That was a bit of a thriller.

“It was a very interesting first lap, very interesting couple of laps after the stop when I had to get by the Haas which is super-fast on the straight. And obviously I had Checo right behind me waiting to take advantage. But we managed to come out on top.

“Very decent end to the season, decent final result. That sixth position in the constructors, it’s not amazing but it’s good for us. It’s good to have that in our pocket now. I’m sure everyone is pleased and happy about that.”

Asked if the result would also offer a boost to Renault in its second season back in F1 as a constructor, Hulkenberg said: “Yeah it is. It is good to finish with a strong result. It helps everybody.

“We had a good package all of the second season. We just had so many issues as you know. We lost so many results and so many points along the way.

“It’s just about recovering some of what we lost, finishing on a positive note and going into the winter with our chins up.”

Kyle Busch interests McLaren for Indy 500, but team is leaning toward experience

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With Arrow McLaren SP heavily weighing a fourth car for the Indy 500 next year, Kyle Busch is a candidate but not at the top of the IndyCar team’s list.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown addressed the possibility Wednesday morning during a video news conference with Gavin Ward, the team’s newly named racing director.

“I have not personally spoken with Kyle Busch, but you can read into that that someone else in our organization has,” Brown said. “We want to make sure if we run a fourth car, we’re in the mindset that we want someone that is experienced around the 500. It’s such an important race, and from a going for the championship point of view, we’ve got three drivers that we want to have finish as strong as possible, so if we ran a fourth car, we’d want to be additive, not only for the fourth car itself, but to the three cars and so bringing in someone who’s not done it before potentially doesn’t add that value from an experience point of view.”

Busch will race the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing next season in NASCAR under a new deal that will allow the two-time Cup Series champion to make his Indy 500 debut. Busch, who had a previous deal to run the Indy 500 nixed by Joe Gibbs Racing, openly courted Chevy IndyCar teams to contact him during his introductory news conference with RCR last month.

After Team Penske (which has given no indications of a fourth car at Indy alongside champion Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), McLaren is the second-best Chevy organization, and it’s fielded an extra Indy 500 car the past two years for Juan Pablo Montoya. The Associated Press reported last month that McLaren was in “serious conversation” about running Busch at Indy with Menards sponsorship.

But with its restructured management, the team is in the midst of significant expansion for 2023. AMSP is adding a third full-time car for 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi to team with Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, and a massive new shop also is being built in the Indianapolis area.

“(It’s) not because of him but purely because of experience,” Brown said of Busch. “He’s an awesome talent and would be huge, huge news for the speedway. But yeah, I think everyone is under consideration if we decide to do it, but experience is right at the top of the list as far as what’s going to be the most important to us.”

And it seems likely there will be a veteran joining Rossi, O’Ward and Rosenqvist at the Brickyard.

“A fourth car at the 500 is very much under consideration,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t even want to get ahead of ourselves, but we wouldn’t be ruling out a fourth car in the future on a full-time basis. That definitely wouldn’t be for ’23. But as we expand the team and get into larger facilities and things of that nature, it’s something that Gavin and I have spoken about.

“I think we would be in a position to run a fourth car at the 500 this upcoming year. If we do decide to do that, we’ll make that decision soon for maximum preparation, and I would say we’re open minded to a fourth car in ’24 and beyond and probably will make that decision middle of next year in time to be prepared if we did decide to do that.”

Brown also addressed the future of Alex Palou, who will be racing for Chip Ganassi Racing next season after also signing a deal with McLaren. Though Brown declined to get into specifics about whether Palou had signed a new deal, he confirmed Palou will continue to test “our Formula One car from time to time.

“Everyone has reached an amicable solution,” Brown said. “We’ve now had Alex in our Formula One car as we have Pato. That will continue in the future, which we’re quite excited about. At this point we’re laser-focused on 2023 and glad to have the noise behind us and now just want to put our head down and get on with the job with the three drivers we have.”