Steady Hulkenberg looks to continue points streak in Austria

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Nico Hulkenberg’s efficient season continued in Canada with a fifth-place finish, and as Austria now looms, the German driver is hopeful that his season-long streak of scoring points will carry on.

“We are in a very good position to keep scoring points, but we will need to keep our guard up and keep working hard as we did from the start,” he said recently.

“There will be tracks where we will be stronger and where we can capitalize on the opportunities we have, and tracks that will be more of a challenge.

“I know what plans the team has for the rest of the season and I see no reason why we cannot keep battling at the level we are at now.”

Force India currently sits fourth in the Constructors’ Championship and is looking up directly at Ferrari, which holds an 87-77 lead for third. Below them is McLaren, which is fifth in Constructors’ with 66 points.

As for the upcoming Austrian Grand Prix, Hulkenberg is optimistic that the Red Bull Ring will play to his car’s strengths.

“Together with Russia, this race is one of the big question marks for everyone this year,” he said. “The track has some long straights and a few slow corners that should suit us, and we can count on making the most of softer compounds as we did in Canada.

“When you go to a new track, it’s even more important to maximize the practice sessions because there is so much more to learn. The lap is quite short so the gaps between the cars will be minimal and even small mistakes can make a big difference.”

Also betting on a solid performance once again is Hulkenberg’s boss, Vijay Mallya, who isn’t expecting a major shake-up of the pecking order in Austria.

“…Cars that have been competitive so far will retain their advantage,” he said. “The track layout seems likely to be favorable to the characteristics of the VJM07, but the competitive order is very tight and we will need to be performing at our best to come away with a good result.”

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.”