Hamilton closes out Monaco GP practice on top

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Lewis Hamilton has finished fastest in the final practice session ahead of qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix later today, which is live on NBCSN from 8am ET.

The British driver is chasing a fifth straight win this weekend, and his practice form suggests that he has every chance of doing exactly that after finishing ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and teammate Nico Rosberg on Saturday morning in Monaco.

The final practice session got underway under perfect blue skies, but Monaco’s serenity was broken when the 22 drivers headed out on track. Mercedes soon went about resuming normal service as Rosberg and Hamilton moved into the top two places.

Marcus Ericsson’s session took an early setback when he locked up at Sainte Devote and had to take to the run-off area. However, he was able to find reverse gear and get back onto the track. Rosberg and Hamilton continued to put in the laps and improve their times, with the German driver remaining one-tenth ahead after the prime tire runs. Hamilton had been working up a very quick lap, but a mistake at Tabac prompted him to return to the pits and request a setup change.

Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo continued to prove that Red Bull is slightly closer to Mercedes in Monaco, slotting into third and fourth place respectively ahead of Fernando Alonso and Kevin Magnussen on the prime tire.

With 15 minutes to go, the first drivers pitted to switch to the option tire, and Ricciardo soon put it to good use by going quickest of all. In the other Red Bull, Vettel went into second place, some four-tenths down on his teammate as Hamilton headed back out again. However, Rosberg remained in the pits as the team fixed a problem on his car.

Hamilton used his first two laps to warm up his tires, but then duly went fastest of all with a lap that was just half-a-tenth quicker than Ricciardo’s benchmark. With five minutes remaining, Rosberg finally got out on track and started his final run, but traffic on his flying lap meant that he could only finish in third place, one-tenth of a second behind his teammate.

The pressure will now be on Mercedes in qualifying as Red Bull hints at a resurgence, but all of the signs suggest that Hamilton remains the driver to beat in Monaco.

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.”