Mercedes boss targets Alonso, Bottas in case Hamilton leaves team


Reigning F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton is entering the final year of his contract with Mercedes AMG Petronas, and both sides have expressed willingness to stay together for 2016 and beyond.

But it never hurts to have a back-up plan, and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has apparently revealed his.

In an interview with Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport, Wolff says that another two-time World Champ, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, would top his driver shortlist in the event that a deal with Hamilton can’t be reached.

Additionally, he mentions Williams young gun Valtteri Bottas as a second alternative behind the Spaniard.

“There’s no hurry, we’ll discuss it during the year,” Wolff told the Italian publication as relayed by Reuters. “I’m an optimist. The priority is to continue with these drivers [Hamilton and teammate Nico Rosberg].

“Should it not be possible, then Alonso represents the first alternative, then there’s Bottas.”

Alonso recently returned to McLaren to join with Jenson Button for 2015 as part of a multi-year contract according to the team.

But if they’re unable to come out of the gate strong with new Honda engines, it could cause Alonso’s eyes to look elsewhere for a better opportunity to capture a third F1 title.

Wolff praises Alonso in the interview as “dangerous in any car,” and there’s certainly no doubt of Alonso’s ability. But it must be considered that this may simply be a move by Wolff to spur Hamilton on with the process of getting a new deal done.

However, even if that is the case, you still figure the chances of a break-up between Hamilton and Mercedes are minimal at this point following such a successful 2014.

With Rosberg locked in on a multi-year deal as of last July, Wolff has to know that retaining Hamilton is still the best option for the ‘Silver Arrows.’

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
Leave a comment

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.”