Hamilton quickest in second practice for Abu Dhabi GP

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ABU DHABI – Lewis Hamilton has sent out a statement of intent during practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix by finishing as the quickest driver in both sessions on Friday, beating Mercedes teammate and championship rival Nico Rosberg.

Hamilton heads into the final race of the 2014 Formula 1 season with a 17-point lead over Rosberg at the top of the standings, and even with double points on offer for the final round, a top two finish will be enough to secure the Briton the title.

After topping the daytime FP1 session on Friday, Hamilton’s good form continued once the sun had set at Yas Marina, posting a fastest lap time of 1:42.113 to finish just eight-hundredths of a second faster than Rosberg.

The season-long game of cat and mouse looks set to continue in Abu Dhabi, with both drivers trading fastest lap times during their qualifying simulations before switching to high-fuel long runs for the second half of the session.

After finishing third in FP1, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso had hoped to follow the Mercedes drivers home once again, but a complete electrical failure on his Ferrari brought him to a halt on just his second lap. As a result, he finished at the bottom of the timesheets without posting a time.

Instead, it was McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen who rose to third place in FP2, finishing seven-tenths of a second adrift of the Silver Arrows at the front. Sebastian Vettel finished fourth despite lamenting a lack of rear grip, with Williams’ Valtteri Bottas making up for the time lost in FP1 by finishing fifth.

After a disappointing first run for Caterham in FP1, F1 debutant Will Stevens improved in the second session to finish within the 107% time of Hamilton at the front, meaning that he should have no problem meeting the qualifying criteria on Saturday.

In the battle for the championship, though, the heat is well and truly on. As Hamilton continues to push at the front, Rosberg knows that he must dig deep if he is to stand any chance of winning the title in Abu Dhabi. Given that the chasing pack is far behind the Mercedes drivers, the chances of a driver finishing between the German and Hamilton look slim, making the Briton’s life much easier.

Be sure to join us for FP3 on Saturday at 5a ET tomorrow on NBC Sports Live Extra, with qualifying airing at 8a ET on NBCSN.

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.”