Mistakes from Hulkenberg result in Q1 elimination

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Nico Hulkenberg was the surprise elimination during the first part of qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix today, with the German driver believing that mistakes on both of his last two flying laps of the session cost him a place in Q2.

The Force India driver qualified down in 18th position during the wet session today at Spa. This is his second-worst ever starting position for a grand prix, having started last for the 2012 Italian Grand Prix thanks to a gearbox change.

However, he did not look to palm off the blame for the result, admitting that he made some mistakes towards the end of the session in the rain.

“It was a difficult session in tricky conditions,” Hulkenberg said. “Initially it was looking good. I was on the pace and we chose to stay out on one set of intermediates for the whole session. Maybe that was a factor in missing out on Q2 because my tires were quite old and worn by the end of the session.

“Q2 should still have been possible, but I made mistakes on my last two laps and outbraked myself going into the final corner, went wide and lost time.”

However, the German driver is confident that he can bounce back in the race tomorrow after showing good signs of pace in practice yesterday.

“For the race tomorrow, I believe we can recover because we’ve got a solid car and the long run pace in the dry yesterday looked promising,” he said.

Hulkenberg’s teammate, Sergio Perez, failed to make it through to Q3 on Saturday, and will start the race from 13th position.

“It was not the easiest day for us,” he said. “I was struggling in the wet conditions and that was the main issue today. I wanted to be further up but we did not maximize everything.

“I’m feeling more optimistic for tomorrow and we should have strong race pace. P13 is not a bad place to start the race and I’m sure we can move forward and make up some positions.”

It will be interesting to see how Hulkenberg fares in the race tomorrow from so far back, but given the pace of the Force India and the power of the Mercedes engine, he should be aiming to pick up some points for a finish in the lower reaches of the top ten.

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.”