Rosberg praises team’s setup as help in securing Austin pole

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AUSTIN – Nico Rosberg has praised his Mercedes’ team’s setup on his W05 as the deciding factor in claiming his ninth pole position of the year Saturday at Circuit of the Americas. That total leads all drivers, and is two ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton’s seven.

This one seemed a bit of a surprise as Hamilton had led all three practice sessions coming into qualifying. But Rosberg said setup, rather than his own digging deep and finding the time needed to snatch the pole, was more to thank.

“It worked out very well together with my engineers,” he said post-qualifying. “I was very happy with the balance. It was quite a challenge with the wind changing, conditions were different, and a lot colder (earlier in the day). In the end we had a great setup, great car.”

Rosberg exploited it to his advantage, particularly in what was a scintillating first sector. With a 25.662 sector one to Hamilton’s 25.847 on his ultimate best, Rosberg had time in hand to improve his fastest lap down to 1:36.067 at his final lap.

It was an impressive lap time, as the new formula of 1.6L V6 power units and on Pirelli’s soft tires (last year, the medium was the alternate whereas this year that’s the prime with the soft the alternate), produced a pole time quicker than Sebastian Vettel’s of 1:36.338 one year ago with the previous formula.

Rosberg upped the gap to 0.376 over Hamilton thanks to his pole time, and the Englishman could come no further.

Asked about the first sector specifically, Rosberg again downplayed it.

“I finally got the right setup together with the team,” he said. “We’ve continued to improve the car all the time. I felt comfortable and was finally able to push.”

Rosberg’s pole means he’ll start on the clean side of the track whilst Hamilton will be on the dirty side.

“I haven’t thought that far ahead yet, but if you say that’s good, that’s great,” Rosberg opined.

A win for Rosberg would be vital in the championship chase. He enters 17 points down to Hamilton with three races remaining. A Rosberg-led Mercedes 1-2 would close the gap to 10, and further inroads could be made if Hamilton falls further back on Sunday.


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.”