F1 notes and quotes: Bahrain Day 2

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An improved day for Renault in the reliability department, if not on pace, highlighted the rest of the runners behind Thursday leader Kevin Magnussen of McLaren-Mercedes in Bahrain.

  • First up, although his best time was only good enough for seventh, more than 5 seconds behind Magnussen, four-time defending World Champion Sebastian Vettel said Red Bull made some key strides after nearly 60 laps on track. “Definitely a better day today. We did more laps, so that’s encouraging,” he said afterwards. “It was good to get a proper first feel for the car and it feels OK but there’s a lot more to come. The most important thing is to run and we did that. I hope Daniel can get some more good laps in tomorrow.” Indeed, Daniel Ricciardo takes over on Friday for the final two days of the test.
  • Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg was second on the day but hailed his two days as “very positive.” Team COO Otmar Szafnauer added, “We had some aero devices on the car this morning and then continued with the set-up program that we started yesterday,” via the team’s official website.
  • Fernando Alonso hailed Ferrari’s work in the factory, as the team continues to work towards reliability first before outright pace. “Despite the bad weather in Jerez we managed to complete a lot of laps. Here, in two days, we have done 161, so on that front we can be pleased. The work at Maranello has been well done and now it’s down to us to make the most of all its potential,” he said via Ferrari’s website.
  • It was a simulated race distance for Mercedes, now with Nico Rosberg behind the wheel on day two. There were two slight stoppages on track, but nothing major. Additionally, Rosberg said he felt more comfortable with the new car and the buttons on the steering wheel. Teammate Lewis Hamilton took the day off from driving to participate in a fans’ Twitter Q&A session, linked here.
  • Williams’ Valtteri Bottas clocked in 116 laps, in a big day for Sir Frank’s squad after fuel system issues limited Felipe Massa’s running on Wednesday. Chief test and support engineer Rod Nelson traced the fuel issue to a wiring-loom manufacturing issue. Bottas hailed the team’s aero work and its ability to run a race simulation.
  • Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi said there was a slight interruption in the morning with a telemetry issue. But the Japanese driver said the team was beginning to extract the performance: “Even though everyone knows laptimes don’t really mean anything in the tests, it’s good for the team to start to see us unlocking some of the car’s performance,” he said, via the team’s website. Marcus Ericsson takes over on Friday.
  • Scuderia Toro Rosso’s struggles have more or less mirrored Red Bull’s, with minimal running done thus far. That’s what made it such a good day for Jean-Eric Vergne on Thursday. “A good day, the best since testing began. This morning was relatively trouble free and we got through plenty of items on the job sheet. It’s the first time I’ve been able to push the car on track and I have to say in terms of its balance, it gave me a good feeling.” 
  • Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez ran 55 laps before electrical trouble limited running time in the afternoon. Said the young Mexican, “In Jerez it was important that everything was running and functioning. Here in Bahrain it’s time to put everything together and make sure all the components are in tune, so we can start working on the potential of the car.” He runs again on Friday with Adrian Sutil back in on Saturday.
  • Lotus made news earlier Thursday by announcing a Renault extension and Charles Pic as reserve driver.
  • Marussia got up to 17 laps completed with Max Chilton, but a fuel system issue interrupted its day. “Unfortunately we experienced the fuel system problem and to get to the root of that is quite a long and complicated process, so it took up most of the afternoon,” said the sophomore English driver to the team’s website. “We were seriously up against it time-wise, so all credit to the guys for pushing so hard and enabling us to get a further three laps in before the session end.”

Helio Castroneves: ‘I have nothing to lose’ Sunday in bid for 4th Indy 500 win

All photos: IndyCar
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You might say Helio Castroneves comes into Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 with a “less is more” philosophy than he’s had in years past:

* No pressure

* No worrying about points

* No worrying about winning a championship

Take away all those things and the very popular Brazilian driver could be in the best position he’s ever been to achieve the biggest goal of his career:

Winning a fourth Indy 500, making him a member of motor racing’s most exclusive club, joining legendary drivers A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as the only drivers to conquer the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway four times each.

Like his car number, Castroneves has won the Indy 500 three times. He wants to change that number to four times in Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing. Photo: IndyCar.

“For sure, I definitely don’t have much to lose in terms of points, championships, and things like that,” Castroneves told MotorSportsTalk earlier this week. “I don’t have to think that I don’t have a car to win, I’m not going to risk that much because there are still championship points (to earn if he was still racing full-time in the series).

“Not that I did that before, but if the situation occurs, people just need to know I have nothing to lose this time.”

Castroneves three prior triumphs in the 500 came in his first two years in the field – 2001 and 2002 – and again in 2009. In addition, he has finished twice in the last four editions of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing in 2014 and 2017.

Coming so close last year, losing to Takuma Sato by .201 of a second, is something Castroneves hasn’t forgotten about. To come so close to No. 4 has only made him more hungry to get it done on Sunday.

“Yeah, but if it were easy, we would likely have had more than four wins by now,” he said. “We’ve had opportunities in the past, the last four years we were really competitive, we were right there, especially in ’14 and ’17, we were right on it.

“Last year, I thought it was going to be the hardest 500 for me and look what happened: we were battling to the end for a victory,” Castroneves said. “It’s not just about trying hard, it’s about being there at the right place at the right time.

“And this place, Indianapolis, I’ve always said the track winds up choosing who is going to be the winner. Hopefully, with safety and luck, we’ll be part of it and be on the right side.”

Team owner Roger Penske decided after last season to put Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya as the chief drivers of Team Penske’s new two-car effort in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship sports car series.

When the announcement was first made, many feared that Castroneves had run out of chances to get that elusive No. 4 at Indy.

But Penske sweetened the deal for Helio to go sports car racing by promising he’d field a car for him at Indy. And Penske has proven to be a man of his word, giving Castroneves everything he needs to finally win No. 4.

“I feel we’ve prepared as much as a team, we’re doing everything possible in relation to preparation,” Castroneves said. “The preparation we had in the previous year helps us tremendously to give us an opportunity fighting there for a win, and that’s what we’re looking for.”

Castroneves has taken to the new style Indy car with aplomb. During the first week of practice leading up to last weekend’s qualifying, he was consistently one of the fastest drivers in the field.

The 43-year-old even topped the speed charts in the Fast Nine last Saturday before ending up eighth in the following day’s pole qualifying.

As a result, he’ll start Sunday’s race from the middle of Row 3, anchoring Team Penske’s four-man Top 8 starting lineup effort in the 500. When the green flag drops, to his left will be Danica Patrick and to his right will be four-time IndyCar champ and former 500 winner Scott Dixon.

And millions of others right behind him, so to speak.

“I feel the sense that everyone wants it to happen,” he said of winning No. 4. “We’re talking about being part of history here. The last guy to do it was Rick Mears in the ‘90s (1991).

“I mean, how cool would that be if I would be in the position and to see No. 4 in my era. I hear a lot of the fans, even those supporting different drivers, all saying ‘Man, I want to see you win No. 4.’ That just shows how special this place is.

“(The Indy 500) is part of a lot of people’s lives. I just would be very fortunate to hopefully to have this generation see someone do No. 4.”

While he’d rather not think about missing out on a fourth win at Indy for a ninth straight year, Castroneves is using reverse psychology somewhat.

He’s going into Sunday’s biggest race in the world fully believing he will finally win No. 4.

And if he does, forget the idea that he would never come back to race at Indy again.

“Not at all. Why? You’re so close to getting four, and then when you get four, you stop it? It doesn’t make sense.

“I think I still have at least four or five more years, there’s no question about it. As long as Roger (Penske) gives me the opportunity, I’m going to be going for it, for sure.”

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