Renault and Lotus extension confirmed; Pic named reserve

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It seems strange to say in modern Formula One that a team has shown up at a test without an official extension in place – gone are the days when a Minardi or someone of that ilk didn’t have an engine or tire deal done for that season – but until Thursday morning that was the case for the Lotus F1 Team.

Its engine partnership with Renault was expected, and a Renault block was in the car, but neither team nor engine manufacturer had issued a release confirming the official continuation of the partnership.

Until this morning, when they did, for what was deemed “2014 and beyond.”

A release from Renault this morning said in part:

Renault will supply the team with its Energy F1-2014 Power Unit for the coming season. … The extension continues the long and successful history of collaboration that first started in 1995 when Renault supplied its legendary V10 to Benetton, as the team was then known. … Renault’s decision to re-centre F1 activities around engine supply led to a majority shareholding being sold to Genii Capital in 2009 before the Luxembourg-based group purchased 100% control at the end of 2010. Renault has since remained involved as the team’s engine partner, aiding the team to re-emerge as a front running team in recent seasons.

While the official Renault release didn’t mention the length of the contract, the BBC reported the contract runs through 2018.

Taken at face value, that could mean a couple of things. It could mean Renault isn’t nearly as concerned about the Lotus cash flow for as bad as it seemed at times in 2013. Second, it guarantees the continued relationship of the two partners as this new engine formula for several years, without the risk of needing to change throughout the development process.

Lotus’ second day in Bahrain saw an improved number of laps – 18 by Romain Grosjean – but not enough to get past some installation issues. Pastor Maldonado takes over on Friday.

On another separate note, the team has confirmed Charles Pic, ex-Marussia and Caterham driver, as third driver for 2014. Pic will travel to races and conduct simulator work at the team’s Enstone factory.

“I am very excited to join a top team and Lotus F1 Team have certainly shown that they are a top team in this sport,” said Pic, via F1’s official website.

Other drivers in the Lotus test and reserve pipeline include Dane Marco Sorenson and Pic’s countryman, fellow Frenchman Nicolas Prost.

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.”