Williams facing uphill struggle in Melbourne

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After a disappointing performance during practice for the Australian Grand Prix, Williams drivers Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas have admitted that they have a lot of work to do ahead of the opening race of the 2013 season.

“We have a lot of work to do before tomorrow,” said Maldonado. “We have another practice session to focus on the set-up needed for qualifying and we’ll be analyzing all today’s data this evening.”

Neither driver excelled in practice, and FP2 saw Valtteri Bottas finish just three-tenths ahead of Marussia’s Jules Bianchi, which has caused many to question Williams’ pace for the new season. However, like Maldonado, Bottas was hopeful of improving his fortunes during the final practice session on Saturday.

“We will analyse all the data tonight and keep working on the car in FP3 to get everything ready for qualifying.

“It felt good to be back on track today. It’s a new circuit for me so it took a few laps in the first practice to get to know it a little better. The track improved a lot going into the second session with much more grip, so I felt like the car could still improve further.”

Technical director Mike Coughlan revealed that the team has reverted back to the aerodynamic package used to launch the car, suggesting that Williams have struggled with the new upgrades.

“We’ll be running our FW35 launch aero package for the remainder of the weekend as it has proven better around the Albert Park circuit and in the conditions we have here.”

Williams had a good season in 2012, winning a race for the first time in over seven years at the Spanish Grand Prix. Much of their good form was rooted in the opening race where Maldonado and ex-teammate Bruno Senna both impressed, and the team will hope to repeat this pace on Sunday despite their practice woes.

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

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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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.”