Alonso believes he can raise his game

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Fernando Alonso believes he can achieve an even higher level of performance than he managed in 2012.

Alonso was widely praised last year for coming close to clinching his third world championship with a car that began the season well off the pace.

Ferrari were rarely the quickest team on any given race weekend, yet Alonso took the battle for the championship down to the last race, and finished just three points behind Sebastian Vettel.

Speaking to journalists at a press conference for sponsor Santander, Alonso said: “Last year was the best year of my career and I was very happy with the performance, but I think this year will be better.”

“We have a better starting point, and I have learned from some of the mistakes from last year.”

Alonso left few points on the table in 2012. He spun into the gravel during qualifying in Australia while wrestling with the ill-handling early F2012. He had a minor off during the race in China.

Strategy arguably cost him points in Monaco and Canada, and he paid a high price for leaning on Kimi Raikkonen at the start of the Japanese Grand Prix.

Only in the final two races did Alonso appear to be giving anything away in terms of pace, as team mate Felipe Massa was quicker than him.

His words are an ominous warning for his rivals, many of which praised his efforts last year. However there’s no escaping the fact the one thing he needs to enjoy a more successful 2013 is a faster car:

“I am more motivated than last year, but of course I also need a better car than last year because we were too far from the leaders,” he added.

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”