Photo: Sauber F1 Team

Charles Leclerc to run No. 16 for F1 career

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The lone full-time rookie confirmed for the 2018 Formula 1 season, this year’s Formula 2 champion Charles Leclerc of Monaco, has selected No. 16 as his car number for his F1 career.

Leclerc’s No. 16 was listed on the car Alfa Romeo and Sauber revealed over the weekend. He is the first driver to have selected the number since drivers were allowed to pick their number for their career starting in 2014.

The significance is also notable because it’s only one number away from the late Jules Bianchi, one of Leclerc’s longtime friends coming up the junior open wheel ladder. Bianchi’s No. 17 was retired after he died in July 2015; the Nice, France-born driver has a street named after him in Nice, which Leclerc paid homage to earlier this year.

Leclerc is already fitting in nicely at Sauber and is fresh off testing with the team last week.

With this selection, at least one driver has selected each number from 2 to 22 with the exception of 15 since drivers could first pick their own numbers. The No. 1 is available for the reigning World Champion, though Lewis Hamilton has opted not to use it, and Nico Rosberg retired when he had the chance.

Only a handful of numbers from 23 and higher have been selected, notably Hamilton at 44, Valtteri Bottas at 77 and Max Verstappen at 33 among others.

Provisional Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew ready for IndyCar ride

Road to Indy
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Provisional Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew has done nothing but dominate the 2019 season, winning seven of the 16 races run so far and finishing on the podium in all but two of those events.

Now all the 22-year-old Floridian needs to do to formally clinch the 2019 title is simply start the final two races of the season, both of which will be held this weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

For Askew, his maiden Indy Lights season will likely be one he’ll never forget. 

“It’s been a dream come true,” Askew told NBC Sports. “Being with the championship-winning team from last year, we had a really good shot at winning it again for Andretti Autosport. It’s very rare that we show up to a track and struggle to find speed. 

“That’s a fantastic feeling, especially as a driver. That gave me a lot of confidence and hopes of holding the million dollar check at the end of the year. That was the goal going into it.”

This weekend, Askew will accomplish said goal. The championship will not only bring him a sense of pride, but also the opportunity of a lifetime. 

As an award for being crowned the Indy Lights champion, Askew will be awarded a scholarship that guarantees him entry into a minimum of three NTT IndyCar Series events next year – including the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500. 

Time will only tell which team Askew will race for in IndyCar next season, and whether or not Askew’s rookie campaign will be a full-time or part-time affair, but Askew’s performance during the last few seasons in the Road to Indy system has certainly drawn attention of IndyCar’s top team owners.

In August, Askew had the chance to drive an Indy car for the first time in his career during a test session at Portland International Raceway, driving the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda usually piloted by Scott Dixon.

“It was an opportunity with Chip Ganassi Racing that I was very fortunate to have,” Askew said. “I think with my experience in the past couple of years with Cape Motorsports and this year with Andretti Autosport, going into that test was very helpful.

“Going into the test, it was more of trying to treat it as just another day at the racetrack, when it really wasn’t. It was a fantastic opportunity for me – a great experience – and I hope I can take that into my rookie season next year in IndyCar.” 

The final two races of the 2019 Indy Lights season will take place this weekend on Saturday, September 21 at 6 p.m. ET and Sunday, September 22 at 12:05 p.m. ET. Both races will air live on NBC Sports Gold.

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