Castroneves: Teammate Power is “top contender” at Sao Paulo

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Team Penske’s Will Power is taking a year-long winless streak into this weekend’s IZOD IndyCar Series race at Sao Paulo, but championship leader Helio Castroneves isn’t about to discount his Australian teammate’s chances of rallying for a big win before the all-important Indianapolis 500.

“There’s been a lot of competition this year, even more than in the past, so it’s hard to say there’s a favorite for Sunday’s race,” Castroneves said at a pre-event press conference according to the Associated Press’ Tales Azzoni. “But you can’t avoid talking about my teammate as the top contender; there’s no doubt he has been really successful here in the past.”

Ain’t that the truth. Power has claimed all three editions of the Sao Paulo Indy 300 at Anhembi Park and last year, he won from pole last while leading the most laps (63 of 75). Even with his shaky start to 2013, he’s definitely still a contender at this track.

But Castroneves appears poised to be the one that can finally dust Power in Brazil. He’s one of just three drivers in the series to post Top 10 runs in all three races (the others being Marco Andretti and Justin Wilson) this season, and jumped 14 positions to finish fourth last year in Sao Paulo.

“I hadn’t even realized at first but this has been my best start to a season ever,” said Castroneves. “I made a mistake in the first race — I should have won that one. But we have been really consistent.”

Consistency aside, a victory in his hometown of Sao Paulo would put him in solid position to become the fourth four-time winner of the Indy 500 later on this month.

Williams confirms Kubica and Sirotkin for Abu Dhabi F1 test

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Williams has confirmed that Robert Kubica will enjoy his third Formula 1 test outing with the team at the end-of-season running in Abu Dhabi next week as rumors grow regarding a possible race seat for 2018.

Almost seven years after his last F1 start, Kubica’s remarkable return from severe injuries sustained in a rally accident saw him enjoy two private tests with Renault before completing running with the team in a 2017-spec car in Hungary over the summer.

Reservations over Kubica’s capabilities prompted Renault to pass on giving him a seat, instead opting to hire Carlos Sainz Jr. for next year, only for Williams to become an alternative for the Pole.

Kubica tested a 2014-spec Williams at both Silverstone and the Hungaroring in recent months, and will now sample a 2017 car when he tests at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit next Tuesday and Wednesday.

Kubica will share track time with regular Williams racer Lance Stroll and Russian youngster Sergey Sirotkin, who has worked with Renault over the past two years but also missed out on a 2018 seat.

“Williams Martini Racing is pleased to confirm it will run Robert Kubica and Sergey Sirotkin for the Abu Dhabi Pirelli tire test, alongside current race driver Lance Stroll,” a statement from the team reads.

“The Pirelli tire test will take place over two days at the Yas Marina circuit during the week following the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“On day one Robert Kubica will drive the FW40 in the morning session, before Lance Stroll takes over in the afternoon.

“On day two Sergey Sirotkin will drive in the morning and afternoon sessions before handing over to Robert in the late afternoon.

“The test is aimed at evaluating 2018 candidate tires on behalf of the Formula 1 tire supplier Pirelli.

“Williams is excited to have this opportunity to assess the new tyres across such an interesting range of drivers: Lance, as confirmed race driver for 2018, Robert with his huge experience, and Sergey as a very promising young talent in Formula 1.”

Williams denied earlier this week it has signed Kubica to partner Stroll for 2018, but indications are the deal looks very likely to go ahead, subject to the relevant paperwork and contracts being finalized.