Williams runs Mercedes close in qualifying, falling just short at the end of Q3

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Williams came close to causing an upset during qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix today as Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas threatened to snatch pole position away from Mercedes in the dying stages of Q3.

Having set an impressive pace during the first two parts of qualifying, Massa and Bottas moved to within 0.15 seconds of the Silver Arrows at the top of the timesheets with their initial Q3 runs.

The straight line speed of the FW36 has been superior to that of the Mercedes all season long, meaning that both Massa and Bottas had a serious chance of topping the Silver Arrows in qualifying as they wound up for their final runs.

However, it wasn’t to be. On their final laps, both Massa and Bottas were unable to improve their times, making small mistakes in the middle sector. The drivers opted to pit on their final flying laps as there was nothing to be gained by completing their times, allowing Nico Rosberg to claim his 10th pole position of the season for Mercedes.

Massa had been quicker than both of the Mercedes drivers through the first sector, but ultimately had to settle for third place on the grid. However, he was pleased with the result nevertheless, especially coming on home soil.

“[It’s] very emotional to be here in Brazil and have a competitive car, starting in the top three,” Massa said.

“I didn’t use everything I could from the car as I had traffic and a problem in my car on the last lap. I left at the last moment with a lot of traffic around so I couldn’t improve my lap and everyone was improving a little.”

Williams’ stranglehold on third place in the constructors’ championship is only set to tighten in Brazil, given that nearest rivals Ferrari could only qualifying eighth and tenth on Saturday at Interlagos.

You can watch the Brazilian Grand Prix live on CNBC and Live Extra from 10:30a ET tomorrow.

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.”