F1 veteran Nico Hulkenberg slated for IndyCar test with Arrow McLaren SP at Barber

Nico Hulkenberg IndyCar test
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Nico Hulkenberg will become the latest Formula One-affiliated driver to explore the NTT IndyCar Series with a test next week.

Hülkenberg, who made 179 F1 starts from 2010-20, will drive a Dallara-Chevrolet with Arrow McLaren SP at Barber Motorsports Park.

In a release Wednesday, the team described Hülkenberg’s Oct. 25 test as an “evaluation” that will “enable Hülkenberg to experience an IndyCar for the first time, a one-off opportunity he has agreed with the team.”

IndyCar has become an attractive option for F1 veterans and prospects in a pipeline that be difficult to break through to the top rung.

After a dazzling part-time rookie season, Romain Grosjean signed a multiyear deal to join Andretti Autosport full time in 2022, and Callum Ilott, a reserve driver for Aston Martin, will race for Juncos Hollinger Racing in IndyCar next season.

Hülkenberg’s test apparently isn’t tied yet to a ride with Arrow McLaren SP, which said it “continues to evaluate a future third car program, however its focus for  2022 remains on the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet driven by Pato O’Ward and the No. 7 Vuse Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet driven by Felix Rosenqvist.”

Hülkenberg, 34, finished a career-best fourth three times during an F1 career that included stops with Sauber, Force India, Renault and Williams. The German also scored an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans with Porsche.

“I am pleased to try out an Indy car and see what it’s all about,” Hülkenberg said in a release. “I want to thank Arrow McLaren SP and Chevy for the opportunity at relatively short notice. It will be great to drive a car for the first time and get a feel for the series.”

Said Taylor Kiel, Arrow McLaren SP president: “We’re looking forward to welcoming Nico and giving him his first taste of IndyCar in an Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet. Barber will be a great track for him to get his first laps and gain some miles in a new form of open-wheel racing.”

Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
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Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.