Hinchcliffe: Andretti team will be fast from start of season

James Hinchcliffe believes that in 2021 Andretti Autosport-Honda can avoid the struggles that plagued it at the start of last IndyCar season, and instead can run as competitively as it did in the final rounds of 2020.

Hinchcliffe: Andretti team will be fast from start of season

The team floundered in the first half of last season, its issues exacerbated by the street races, one of Andretti Autosport’s recent fortes, being canned in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Michael Andretti’s squad caught up, scored a win with Colton Herta in Mid-Ohio and were the pacesetters for much of the finale at St. Petersburg.

Hinchcliffe, who ran six races for the team last year and was today confirmed as a fulltimer this season, sounded bullishly confident that Andretti Autosport can pick up from where it left off.

“It’s no secret that it was a little bit of a struggle in the first part of last year, but in the last half of the season the team really came on strong and the cars were really competitive,” said the 34-year-old Canadian who also raced for AA in the 2012-’14 period. “So I think it gave us a lot of positive momentum going into the off-season.

“There’s nothing that would stop us from saying that we should be running up at the front right from the drop of the green flag in Barber. Podiums, race wins… I’d like to see all the cars up there with a decent shot of the championship with three or four rounds to go…

“I think a lot of the experience from last year is going to translate well. I don't think we should start behind the eight ball really compared to anybody. I think we should be right there.”

The late confirmation of this ride meant Hinchcliffe missed out on the team’s Sebring test last week, although Marco Andretti – who turns part-time this season – shook down the #29 car. However, Hinchcliffe believes that there is enough overlap between his driving style and those of his fulltime teammates – Alexander Rossi, Colton Herta and Ryan Hunter-Reay – that what works for them can work for him, too.

“For me, there were definitely some differences coming into the Andretti camp, the general philosophy with the car in certain elements,” he said. “So those first few races on the road courses it took a little time to get used to it.

“But we got there and certainly by St. Pete all those cars were quick and I was right up there with them in the Firestone Fast Six. That was for me a big indicator that Colton, Alex, Ryan and myself can all run pretty similar cars and that’s really going to be a huge strength of ours this year.”

Michael Andretti who saw Hinchcliffe win three races for his team in 2013 and briefly run fourth in the title fight, concurred that the Sebring test would push the whole team forward and that Hinchcliffe would reap benefits.

“When you’re testing, you’re testing basic stuff, not just based on whether it’s for the drivers’ style,” he commented. “It’s more like testing overall for the team and I believe we learned quite a few things in the test. And the things that we did learn – not just from Marco in James’ car but also the other drivers – should definitely translate into a better car for James as well.

He added: “It's great having James back. He's very quick. He's really a big help in developing a car.

“Also he fits in very well with all the other teammates, which is an important element when you have a team the size of ours. We have to make sure that personalities all work together. James fits in like a glove, perfect, with everybody. So, yeah, it's really great to have him back.”

Hinchcliffe also appeared to shrug off any worries that he had considerably less experience of the weight distribution changes caused by the introduction of the aeroscreen in 2020.

“Again, it speaks to the strength of having a four-car team,” said Hinchcliffe, whose race engineer will be the vastly respected and experienced Garrett Mothersead. “Sure, I may have fewer laps, but the data has prepared me. I can take all the lessons [the team has] learned.

“We've developed the setups as we've had to at each track. Luckily it was less of an impact on the setups than we thought it would be. That helped a bit. Pretty much could run the same car you ran last year with only a few minor adjustments.

“I had to kind of lean on my teammates and on my team a little bit [but] I'm with the best team to do that.”

shares
comments
Hinchcliffe makes full-time return to IndyCar with Andretti
Previous article

Hinchcliffe makes full-time return to IndyCar with Andretti

Next article

Ed Jones returns to IndyCar with DCR Vasser Sullivan

Ed Jones returns to IndyCar with DCR Vasser Sullivan
Load comments
Ranking the top 10 IndyCar drivers of 2021 Prime

Ranking the top 10 IndyCar drivers of 2021

In an enthralling 2021 IndyCar campaign, the series bounced back from its COVID-19 truncated year prior and series sophomore Alex Palou defeated both the established order and his fellow young guns to clinch a maiden title. It capped a remarkable season with plenty of standout performers

IndyCar
Nov 22, 2021
How Marcus Ericsson finally unlocked his potential in IndyCar Prime

How Marcus Ericsson finally unlocked his potential in IndyCar

Marcus Ericsson enjoyed a breakout year in the IndyCar Series in 2021, winning twice and finishing sixth in points with Chip Ganassi Racing. How did he finally unlock the potential that was masked by five years of toil in Formula 1 with Caterham and Sauber/Alfa Romeo?

IndyCar
Nov 16, 2021
Remembering Dan Wheldon and his last and most amazing win Prime

Remembering Dan Wheldon and his last and most amazing win

Saturday, Oct. 16th, marks the 10th anniversary Dan Wheldon’s death. David Malsher-Lopez pays tribute, then asks Wheldon’s race engineer from 2011, Todd Malloy, to recall that magical second victory at the Indianapolis 500.

IndyCar
Oct 16, 2021
Have Harvey and RLL formed IndyCar’s next winning match-up? Prime

Have Harvey and RLL formed IndyCar’s next winning match-up?

Jack Harvey’s move to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing sparked plenty of debate, but their combined strength could prove golden, says David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Oct 15, 2021
Why Kyle Kirkwood is America's new IndyCar ace-in-waiting Prime

Why Kyle Kirkwood is America's new IndyCar ace-in-waiting

Kyle Kirkwood, the record-setting junior formula driver, sealed the Indy Lights championship last weekend. But despite an absurdly strong résumé and scholarship money, his next move is far from clear. By David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Oct 6, 2021
2021 IndyCar title is just the start for Ganassi's newest star Prime

2021 IndyCar title is just the start for Ganassi's newest star

Alex Palou has captured Chip Ganassi Racing's 14th IndyCar drivers' championship, and in truly stellar manner. David Malsher-Lopez explains what made the Palou-Ganassi combo so potent so soon.

IndyCar
Sep 28, 2021
Why Grosjean's oval commitment shows he's serious about IndyCar Prime

Why Grosjean's oval commitment shows he's serious about IndyCar

One of motorsport’s worst-kept secrets now out in the open, and Romain Grosjean has been confirmed as an Andretti Autosport IndyCar driver in 2022. It marks a remarkable turnaround after the abrupt end to his Formula 1 career, and is a firm indication of his commitment to challenge for the IndyCar Series title  

IndyCar
Sep 24, 2021
IndyCar’s longest silly-season is still at fever pitch Prime

IndyCar’s longest silly-season is still at fever pitch

The 2021 IndyCar silly season is one of the silliest of all, but it’s satisfying to see so many talented drivers in play – including Callum Ilott. David Malsher-Lopez reports.

IndyCar
Sep 11, 2021