COTA set to provide Vettel with a dose of nostalgia

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Sebastian Vettel is relishing next weekend’s United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of The Americas, saying that the track features many of the best sections from some of his favorite venues in Formula 1.

When the circuit was designed ahead of the first race at COTA in 2012, it intentionally mixed some of its own defining features (such as the steep incline at turn one) with those from classic circuits such as Silverstone, Suzuka and Hockenheim.

After his Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo said earlier this week that the United States GP was his favorite race of the season, Vettel was also full of praise for the event in Austin, Texas.

“Austin is a fun city where you get a real feel for the Texan lifestyle and traditions and get to race on a great track,” Vettel said in Red Bull’s grand prix preview. “The Circuit of the Americas is a track I like a lot. It has 20 corners and we drive it anti-clockwise. The start/finish straight has a steep incline up to the first corner and is the trademark of the track. For us that means the braking starts uphill, which is not easy and locking the front tires could be a problem.

“A lot of the corner combinations remind me of other famous circuits on the race calendar. For example the fast combination during the first part of the track feels like Silverstone and Suzuka. The famous Maggotts and Becketts passages were used as a model for this part of the track and the drivers enjoy the extremely fast turns, when the car is balanced right.

“Also corners 12 and 15, this section was taken from the Motodrom in Hockenheim. It is a slower part of the track, and is designed to create more of a stadium atmosphere. The long bend also reminds of the famous turn 8 in Istanbul.”

Vettel won last year’s event at COTA (pictured) ahead of Romain Grosjean and Mark Webber, and although his hopes of a second victory in Austin may be slim in 2014, he’ll be pushing to finish the season and his tenure with Red Bull in the best possible fashion.

Penske won’t discuss if Castroneves returns to Indy in 2020

Bruce Martin Photo
Bruce Martin Photo
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INDIANAPOLIS – NBC Sports.com asked Indianapolis 500 winning team owner Roger Penske if three-time Indy winner Helio Castroneves would return to the team in 2020?

Penske immediately brushed off the question.

“We’re not going to talk about that right now,” Penske told NBC Sports.com. “I’m just not going to talk about it. We’re going to have a meeting about it before we decide, but I’m not going to talk about that right now.

“Simon won the race and that is what I’m focused on right now.”

Simon Pagenaud, gave Penske a record-extending 18thIndy 500 win on Sunday. Penske confirmed that Pagenaud will be back with the team in 2020 after he scored his first win in Sunday’s 103rdIndianapolis 500.

Castroneves was an NTT IndyCar Series regular at Team Penske from 2000 until the 2017 season. After that, Castroneves was shifted over to the team’s Acura IMSA Sports Car program, but the three-time Indy 500 winner was given a ride at both races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway the past two years.

The popular driver from Brazil is trying to join AJ Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as four-time Indy 500 winners.

But the whispers in Gasoline Alley indicate his future with Team Penske at Indy remain uncertain.

“I’ve heard the rumors, too,” Castroneves told NBC Sports.com on pit lane after his disappointing finish in the Indy 500. “I will definitely give it a good, hard think about coming back in 2020. I want to be the rest of the season, here.”

But, will Castroneves run the Indy 500 again?

“Who knows?” Castroneves told NBC Sports.com. “Let’s see what happens.”

Castroneves’s bid for a fourth Indianapolis 500 was derailed in a pit road incident after his first pit stop when he ran into James Davison’s Chevrolet on the team’s first pit stop on Lap 30.

The front wing of Castroneves’s Chevrolet was damaged and INDYCAR officials gave him a “Drive Through” penalty for “Avoidable Contact.” Castroneves would ultimate drop three laps down but finished one lap down in 18thplace.

Castroneves explained what happened to him earlier in the race and how it affected the rest of his Indy 500.

“The accident that happened in the pits hurt us for sure,” Castroneves explained. “We had a problem with the fuel mapping, and I couldn’t go over 200 miles an hour for four or five laps. We lost 35 seconds. There was a bug in the system.

“Then, we went back out and that was it. I wasn’t able to recoup after that. I was excited. The car was very, very good entering the race.”

Castroneves spoke with second-place finisher Alexander Rossi, who was furious with the driver from Brazil earlier in the race for not moving out of the way, even though he was three laps down at the time.

The two drivers hugged, and Castroneves walked back up pit lane.

“I did what the team told me to do, and they told me to go as fast as I could,” Castroneves explained after talking to Rossi. “It’s racing and everybody is upset they didn’t win.”

Castroneves hopes his walk up pit lane is not the final time as an Indy 500 competitor.

But it could be.

“I hope I can come back next year,” Castroneves said. “I’m really upset as a competitor, but extremely happy for Team Penske and for Simon Pagenaud for winning the race.

“The good news is I go back to the Acura sports car, but I will be dreaming about coming back here again.”