Boullier: Joining McLaren “a rare and great opportunity”

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McLaren racing director Eric Boullier has spoken for the first time about his decision to join the team ahead of the new season, calling it “a rare and great opportunity.”

The Frenchman was confirmed as having joined the team at the end of January after leaving Lotus, with whom he had spent four years. He had been the driving force behind the signing of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean’s development. However, with many financial problems blighting Lotus’ best efforts in 2013 and causing a great media stir, Boullier’s job became increasingly difficult, although he was not willing to talk about it in an interview with the official Formula 1 website.

“I will not talk about that now,” he said. “There is nothing to be said right now. Or let’s put it this way: it was a rare and great opportunity to join a prestigious team like McLaren. I am delighted and I feel privileged having been contacted.

“It was the team that I was watching when I was a kid – the era of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. My decision to join McLaren was made before I could even finish saying McLaren!”

McLaren has undergone a sizeable reshuffle in the past few months following the team’s worst season since 1980. Mexican driver Sergio Perez was dropped after just one season in favour of Danish youngster Kevin Magnussen, whilst Ron Dennis has returned to the role of CEO, in turn displacing Martin Whitmarsh (the designated team principal in 2013). Now though, Boullier is working in that role, albeit under the title of ‘racing director’.

“We have discussed that with Ron: the title ‘team principal’ is heritage – something of the past,” the Frenchman explained. “It was the team founder or the team owner. The idea is more to split tasks between Jonathan Neale and myself. IT, legal and finance is under Jonathan’s scope, racing and engineering under mine.

“So at the track I am acting one hundred percent as the team principal.”

Where does this leave Martin Whitmarsh? Interestingly, he hasn’t been mentioned by McLaren in any of the official communications, nor has he been present for any of the tests. Therefore, it appears to be merely a matter of time until his departure is formally confirmed by the team.

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.”