Canadian GP Paddock Notebook – Saturday

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Who would have thought it? Nico Rosberg snatching pole position away from Lewis Hamilton at the Briton’s favorite circuit? Ouch. How will that go down in the Mercedes garage?

Given that things are apparently okay between the two now, it will probably be alright. Just as Lewis said in the post-qualifying press conference, “Nico just did a better job today so I need to work hard to make sure I do better tomorrow”. That’s the kind of attitude we like to see in our racing drivers.

It was certainly a busy day at the circuit, so here’s the latest paddock notebook from the Canadian Grand Prix.

SESSION REPORTS

  • The final say in practice did in fact go to Hamilton, and the margin by which he gapped the rest of the field on the slower tire was phenomenal. It didn’t seem like he could be beaten…
  • …but then Nico did exactly that. The German driver produced a fine final lap in Q3 to snatch pole position away from the Briton. Williams and Red Bull both put in an impressive display, while Ferrari and McLaren struggled.

NEWS FROM THE PADDOCK

THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK

Nico beating Lewis? Who would have thought it? In the media centre, it was a common assumption that Hamilton would bag his fifth pole position of the season. After all, this is his circuit; he always goes well around here. However, a mistake heading down to the hairpin meant that he lost a fraction of time. Unfortunately for him, said fraction was enough to cost him pole to Rosberg. Thankfully, we had none of the theatrics of Monaco. Lewis simply held his hands up and said that Nico was quicker.

What we do have is a cracking fight for the win tomorrow, though. The run into the first corner will be massive for the result of the race, and even though he might start from second, the smart money will still be on Lewis Hamilton. As Nico proved today, though, he is not to be discounted.

The battle further back is a little more complex. Williams turned out to be the dark horse of qualifying, with Valtteri Bottas finishing fourth ahead of Felipe Massa. The two drivers both will be hoping to convert this into a strong double score tomorrow, whereas Red Bull will want the Martini-liveried cars to have as much trouble as possible. Daniel Ricciardo was his smiley self after qualifying, but he made no secret of his annoyance after having missed out on P3 by less than half a tenth of a second.

At Ferrari, Kimi Raikkonen was once again anonymous in the final session, and Fernando Alonso once again dragged the car to just seventh on the grid. Fighting with Red Bull and Williams might be a bit of a long shot for the prancing horses tomorrow.

Finally, a few thoughts on Gene Haas’ comments to NBCSN about his F1 team. It’s fantastic that we will have an American team on the grid in 2016, and if there’s an American driver (not mentioning any names… Alexander Rossi), that would be awesome. That’s why I find his comments about Danica Patrick being a candidate confusing.

Sure, Danica would be very marketable, and yes, she does have open wheel experience. However, she would be 34 by the time the team makes its debut. A 34-year-old rookie in F1? It goes against the idea of nurturing the next generation of drivers, one of whom has to be Rossi. Of course, this debate will rumble on until Gene signs a deal with his drivers, which probably would’t be for another 12 to 18 months yet.

Race day tomorrow promises to be a fascinating one. Be sure to watch the Canadian Grand Prix live on NBC from 2pm ET, with build-up starting on NBCSN from 1:30pm ET.

Helio Castroneves: ‘I have nothing to lose’ Sunday in bid for 4th Indy 500 win

All photos: IndyCar
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You might say Helio Castroneves comes into Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 with a “less is more” philosophy than he’s had in years past:

* No pressure

* No worrying about points

* No worrying about winning a championship

Take away all those things and the very popular Brazilian driver could be in the best position he’s ever been to achieve the biggest goal of his career:

Winning a fourth Indy 500, making him a member of motor racing’s most exclusive club, joining legendary drivers A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as the only drivers to conquer the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway four times each.

Like his car number, Castroneves has won the Indy 500 three times. He wants to change that number to four times in Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing. Photo: IndyCar.

“For sure, I definitely don’t have much to lose in terms of points, championships, and things like that,” Castroneves told MotorSportsTalk earlier this week. “I don’t have to think that I don’t have a car to win, I’m not going to risk that much because there are still championship points (to earn if he was still racing full-time in the series).

“Not that I did that before, but if the situation occurs, people just need to know I have nothing to lose this time.”

Castroneves three prior triumphs in the 500 came in his first two years in the field – 2001 and 2002 – and again in 2009. In addition, he has finished twice in the last four editions of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing in 2014 and 2017.

Coming so close last year, losing to Takuma Sato by .201 of a second, is something Castroneves hasn’t forgotten about. To come so close to No. 4 has only made him more hungry to get it done on Sunday.

“Yeah, but if it were easy, we would likely have had more than four wins by now,” he said. “We’ve had opportunities in the past, the last four years we were really competitive, we were right there, especially in ’14 and ’17, we were right on it.

“Last year, I thought it was going to be the hardest 500 for me and look what happened: we were battling to the end for a victory,” Castroneves said. “It’s not just about trying hard, it’s about being there at the right place at the right time.

“And this place, Indianapolis, I’ve always said the track winds up choosing who is going to be the winner. Hopefully, with safety and luck, we’ll be part of it and be on the right side.”

Team owner Roger Penske decided after last season to put Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya as the chief drivers of Team Penske’s new two-car effort in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship sports car series.

When the announcement was first made, many feared that Castroneves had run out of chances to get that elusive No. 4 at Indy.

But Penske sweetened the deal for Helio to go sports car racing by promising he’d field a car for him at Indy. And Penske has proven to be a man of his word, giving Castroneves everything he needs to finally win No. 4.

“I feel we’ve prepared as much as a team, we’re doing everything possible in relation to preparation,” Castroneves said. “The preparation we had in the previous year helps us tremendously to give us an opportunity fighting there for a win, and that’s what we’re looking for.”

Castroneves has taken to the new style Indy car with aplomb. During the first week of practice leading up to last weekend’s qualifying, he was consistently one of the fastest drivers in the field.

The 43-year-old even topped the speed charts in the Fast Nine last Saturday before ending up eighth in the following day’s pole qualifying.

As a result, he’ll start Sunday’s race from the middle of Row 3, anchoring Team Penske’s four-man Top 8 starting lineup effort in the 500. When the green flag drops, to his left will be Danica Patrick and to his right will be four-time IndyCar champ and former 500 winner Scott Dixon.

And millions of others right behind him, so to speak.

“I feel the sense that everyone wants it to happen,” he said of winning No. 4. “We’re talking about being part of history here. The last guy to do it was Rick Mears in the ‘90s (1991).

“I mean, how cool would that be if I would be in the position and to see No. 4 in my era. I hear a lot of the fans, even those supporting different drivers, all saying ‘Man, I want to see you win No. 4.’ That just shows how special this place is.

“(The Indy 500) is part of a lot of people’s lives. I just would be very fortunate to hopefully to have this generation see someone do No. 4.”

While he’d rather not think about missing out on a fourth win at Indy for a ninth straight year, Castroneves is using reverse psychology somewhat.

He’s going into Sunday’s biggest race in the world fully believing he will finally win No. 4.

And if he does, forget the idea that he would never come back to race at Indy again.

“Not at all. Why? You’re so close to getting four, and then when you get four, you stop it? It doesn’t make sense.

“I think I still have at least four or five more years, there’s no question about it. As long as Roger (Penske) gives me the opportunity, I’m going to be going for it, for sure.”

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