Lewis Hamilton leads first practice for inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

Hamilton practice Saudi Arabia
GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images
0 Comments

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia — Seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton posted the fastest time Friday in the first practice for the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The British veteran was 0.056 seconds ahead of championship leader Max Verstappen of Red Bull and 0.223 ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Verstappen led for the first forty minutes of the hour-long session on the 6.2-kilometer (3.8-mile) street circuit, which sits on a 30-kilometer (18.6-mile) coastal resort area in Jeddah.

Hamilton initially struggled to adapt to the track while Verstappen twice improved his best time before Hamilton found some extra speed.

Hamilton led Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas in the Friday evening session, which was ended about three minutes early because Charles LeClerc brought out the red flag with a high-speed crash in Turn 22.

Verstappen leads Hamilton by eight points – with nine wins to seven – in a closely fought duel that will see a champion crowned next weekend in Abu Dhabi. Hamilton won the most recent race in Qatar.

Verstappen can mathematically win the championship in Saudi Arabia, but Hamilton also has the ability to leave the circuit tied with the Dutchman in the standings.

Hamilton said there are differences in this title fight from his previous battles, but the British driver said he’s never been more relaxed.

“It’s different in one sense because we’ve got two incredibly close teams,” Hamilton said. “It’s different because as a team we’re fighting for uncharted territory. No one has ever won eight titles, team or driver, so that’s quite fresh and new. And then on the other side, I’m more relaxed than I’ve ever been because I’ve been around a long time. It’s not my first.”

Hamilton has shaved 11 points off Verstappen’s lead in the last two races.

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing
4 Comments

Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”