Lewis Hamilton eases to pole position in China

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Lewis Hamilton will start the Chinese Grand Prix from pole position having finished on top in today’s qualifying session.

The British driver claimed pole position in just his third race for Mercedes, setting a time of 1:34.484 to finish ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso.

Much of qualifying saw little action out on the track as teams opted to save their tires due to the high wear rate in China. However, when it came to the final runs in Q3, Mercedes appeared to have the upper hand. It could have been far better for the German team though, with a mistake from Nico Rosberg meaning that he could only manage to qualify fourth.

Felipe Massa could not repeat his practice form, qualifying fifth ahead of Romain Grosjean in P6. Daniel Ricciardo starred for Toro Rosso, getting into Q3 for only the second time in his career, and he will start the race in seventh.

Having opted to save their tires, Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel and Nico Hulkenberg completed the top ten on the prime tire, with the latter two drivers failing to set a time.

The stand-out moment during qualifying was a car failure for Mark Webber. Due to a problem with the fuel system, the Red Bull driver was forced to pull over at the side of the track during Q2, costing him a place in the final shootout. The Australian driver is provisionally set to start P14, although he could be excluded from qualifying if he cannot supply a fuel sample.

At the back, Williams continued to struggle, qualifying 15th and 17th, whilst Vergne and Gutierrez failed to match the top ten exploits of their teammates. Marussia will be pleased to have outqualified nearest rivals Caterham.

It appears that strategy could be king in China, meaning that all of the top ten could be in the running for the podium in the race tomorrow, and Webber will be determined to make up for this disappointment. However, Lewis Hamilton is best poised to take his first win for Mercedes from pole position, but it will now be hard for the team to write off their 2013 championship chances.

For the complete qualifying results, click here.

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.”