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F1: Lewis Hamilton relishes challenge from young drivers, still hungry for more wins

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SAO PAULO (AP) Five-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton has a two-step plan for keeping the new generation of talented drivers behind him next season: match their youthful hunger and outwit them with the experience that comes with age.

The 33-year-old Hamilton wrapped up this year’s title at the Mexican Grand Prix two weeks ago and is already looking forward to the renewed challenge he will face in 2019 from a crop of young drivers who will only get better.

Hamilton, who became the youngest F1 champion when he won his first title at the age of 23 in 2008, says he sees a bit of himself in 21-year-old Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc and Red Bull’s 22-year-old Pierre Gasly.

“These are two young rising stars that are already showing incredible potential,” Hamilton said after he arrived in Sao Paulo for this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

He later added 21-year-old Red Bull driver Max Verstappen to the shortlist as well.

“I welcome the competition,” he said. “Naturally I do see a little bit of myself in them. At their age I had the same kind of eye of the tiger. Now it is a little different for me, I am one of the older drivers. But I feel like I still have that hunger they are coming in with.”

Hamilton also has the experience of spending a decade at the pinnacle of the sport, and he thinks that could help him stay at the top for a bit longer.

“Perhaps there are things that I will be able to bring to the table and that they won’t,” he said.

Interlagos will host the penultimate race of the F1 season this weekend. Hamilton called the Brazilian track “one of the trickiest of the season” and “an Achilles heel.”

Hamilton won the Brazilian race in 2016 and lifted his first F1 title in Sao Paulo 10 years ago, finishing fourth after a dramatic overtake on the last lap.

“The first year here was quite difficult, but it has been improving over time,” he said.

While Hamilton has already clinched the individual title, his Mercedes team is still fighting with Ferrari for the constructor’s championship – meaning the Briton will not be able to relax just yet.

“We still have two races to go and a championship at stake,” he said.

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.