Vergne: Red Bull rejection a big disappointment

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Jean-Eric Vergne has conceded that missing out on the Red Bull seat for 2014 came as a big blow, but he is pleased that the speculation has finally come to an end following Monday’s announcement that Daniel Ricciardo would be claiming the position.

After Mark Webber confirmed in June that he would be retiring at the end of the season, Vergne was initially shortlisted alongside Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen as a possible replacement for the Australian. However, Christian Horner confirmed a few weeks later that Vergne was no longer a consideration, and the Frenchman has admitted that this came as a great disappointment.

“Naturally, it’s a big disappointment for me personally,” Vergne explained. “It would be foolish to claim it isn’t and I don’t think anyone would really believe me if I did.

“However, I can honestly say I’m happy for Daniel. Not crazy happy obviously, but I’ve said previously that if he gets the seat it will be a good thing because it confirms the value of Red Bull’s Junior Team. It makes total sense.”

However, Vergne is adamant that there is very little to choose between himself and Ricciardo, conceding that his inferior qualifying form may have been decisive in Red Bull’s decision.

“The fact is, he has a bit more experience and he’s done a better job in qualifying. However, deep inside I know that we have always been really evenly matched and that’s the positive I take from it. I had more points than him last year, I have more points at the moment this year and I know in my heart that I can still do better, that I can improve.

“It makes me want to raise my game because I know that he didn’t beat me over the past season and a half and that, in reality, there is very little to choose between us in terms of ability.”

Vergne has been assured of his place at Toro Rosso despite missing out on the seat, although he will have to consider his future within the Red Bull setup following this setback.

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.”