Perez set to kick off AS Monaco’s final Ligue 1 game tonight

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Formula 1’s festivities in Monaco are set to begin next week as the rich and famous flock to the principality for the sport’s glamor event.

However, there is one final sporting occasion on the agenda for those in the principality before the race weekend, as soccer club AS Monaco plays its last game of the season against Bordeaux tonight.

Fitting in with the F1 weekend, Force India driver Sergio Perez will have the honor of kicking off the game at the Louis II stadium, as confirmed by the Ligue 1 club on its official website.

Rather aptly, both Perez and Monaco are enjoying something of a revival. Perez was seen as a young star following two excellent seasons with Sauber in 2011 and 2012, but a move to McLaren in 2013 proved to be a step in the wrong direction. He failed to score a podium finish all year, and was dropped in favor of Kevin Magnussen for 2014.

Perez subsequently secured a seat at Force India for this season, and has since rediscovered some form. He finished in third place at the Bahrain Grand Prix, which was only the second podium finish in the team’s history.

Monaco has enjoyed some success over the past decade, and reached the Champions League final back in 2004. However, the club was relegated from Ligue 1 at the end of the 2010/2011 season, suggesting that its heyday might have been over. Thanks to fresh Russian investment, though, it bounced back and got promoted last season.

With a sizeable transfer budget, the club has attracted some of the top players in Europe such as Falcao and Joao Moutinho. In its first season back in Ligue 1, Monaco has already secured second place in the league behind PSG, and will contest next year’s Champions League.

Tonight’s game will have no bearing on the team’s final position, so it is likely to be an enjoyable night that will kick start the Monaco Grand Prix weekend, arguably the most important in the principality’s calendar.

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.”