Ricciardo: “I need to get some points on the board”

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No word on whether or not Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo has opted to buy a rabbit’s foot on his way to this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, but at this point, it probably wouldn’t hurt.

Ricciardo has put up great performances in his first two Grand Prix as counterpart to four-time defending World Champion Sebastian Vettel – only to be DQ’d after finishing second in Australia and then having another podium run in Malaysia ruined by a series of unfortunate events.

That chain began when Ricciardo was released from the pits on his final stop with the left front tire not properly attached. The team wheeled him back to his box and he lost a lap in the process. Adding salt to the wound, the FIA tagged Ricciardo with a 10-spot grid penalty for Bahrain after deeming the incident an unsafe release.

The fact that the endings to his races in Melbourne and Sepang have come down to bad luck and not him is probably cold comfort. With nothing to show for his hard work so far, Ricciardo appears to feel the urgency to leave the desert with a good points haul this weekend.

“In terms of aggression…Well, it’s not going to be any less,” Ricciardo said of his mindset going into Bahrain on Red Bull Racing’s web site. “I’m going to Bahrain thinking that I have to be starting 11th, and need an aggressive start to get me back into contention.

“I need to get some points on the board and that’s not going to happen if I’m cruising around in the middle of the pack. That said, I don’t think I need to change anything much. I think I’m driving with good intensity, so I don’t need to do anything dramatically different.”

As for the matter of catching Mercedes, it appears that Red Bull isn’t as far off as people were expecting them to be after their dismal preseason testing.

While Ricciardo found trouble late in Malaysia, Vettel was able to claim his first podium of the season with a third-place showing behind winner Lewis Hamilton and runner-up Nico Rosberg.

Ricciardo isn’t sure how the Bahrain International Circuit’s array of long straights will suit his and Vettel’s Renault-powered RB10s, but feels confident that the team can catch up to Merc when the series comes to tracks where downforce is more highlighted.

“I think the car itself, aerodynamically and mechanically, is competitive,” Ricciardo said. “We know we’re a little bit down on straightline speed and that really hurts somewhere like Sepang – though through Sector 2 [the twisty section], we were strong all weekend and on the pace of the Mercs.

“We’ll see how Bahrain treats us but once we get to China and – even better – Barcelona, I think we can really take the fight to them.”

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.”