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Formula E: Mexico City ePrix preview

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The ABB FIA Formula E Championship heads to Mexico City this weekend for Round 5 of the 2017-18 campaign. The current season, the fourth of the Formula E championship, has seen three different winners – Sam Bird, Felix Rosenqvist, and Jean-Éric Vergne – in four races, with Vergne currently leading the championship standings on 71 points, five ahead of Rosenqvist.

Below are noteworthy storylines heading into Saturday’s Mexico City ePrix.

  • Vergne’s victory at the last race, in Santiago, Chile, a 1-2 for Techeetah Formula E Team, with teammate André Lotterer finishing second after the two engaged in a hard-fought battle for the win. It was also the first 1-2 for any team in Formula E history.
  • Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler’s Lucas di Grassi, the defending Formula E champion, enters Mexico City in somewhat of a slump, with a best finish of 14th in the 2017-18 season and with two consecutive DNFs to his name. However, di Grassi is also the defending Mexico City winner, so this weekend presents a strong opportunity for him to right the ship.
  • Ten points separate championship leader Vergne from third-place Sam Bird. Fourth place Sébastien Buemi sits on 37 points, 24 behind Bird, meaning the early-season title picture looks to be a three-man fight. However, with seven rounds remaining, including Saturday’s Mexico City event, there remains plenty of time for a driver outside of the Top 3 to make a championship run.
  • The Teams’ Championship is also a close fight at the front, with Techeetah leading the way on 89 points, but only two markers ahead of Mahindra Racing. DS Virgin Racing sits in third, on 69 points.
  • While Formula E events are held on city streets, the Mexico City event does feature a permanent racing facility, utilizing parts of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, including the Peraltada, to make up the 17-turn track.
  • DS Virgin Racing’s Alex Lynn is slated to receive a 10-spot grid penalty for taking a new gearbox after suffering a failure at the Santiago ePrix.

Saturday’s Mexico City ePrix rolls off at 4:30 p.m. EST.

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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.