Raikkonen: “Whole package” improved for Ferrari, but work remains

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The opening preseason test is hardly the time to declare true contenders. Kimi Raikkonen has long known this.

So while his Ferrari camp led three of the past four days of Formula One testing in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain – twice with Sebastian Vettel and with himself on Wednesday – Raikkonen said afterwards that it doesn’t mean all that much.

“It’s the whole package that has progressed, but there is still a lot of work to do,” said Raikkonen, who did acknowledge that the team had made “a good step forward” over the winter in developing the new SF15-T.

“We are not comparing ourselves to the others, we just got on with our own job, without looking at what they were doing. Times are of relatively little importance; what matters is that we have put together a good number of laps without having any real problems.

“Today’s conditions were not that easy, with too strong a wind blowing on track, but then it’s the same for everyone. As I said, we now have a good basis from which to start the development work.”

Two more F1 preseason tests are on tap for Barcelona next month, and they should provide a clearer view of which teams will start 2015 with an advantage and which teams will be on the back foot.

Ferrari’s undergone many changes leading up to this season in hopes of returning to contention. One of those changes involved the addition of a new team principal in Maurizio Arrivabene, and following the first 2015 test, Arrivabene said he was pleased that the team had “rediscovered its motivation and team spirit.”

“If one makes a comparison to last year [at Jerez], these past few days of testing have produced encouraging signs,” he said. “The team has worked well, both at home and at the track and our drivers did a great job, providing the engineers with valuable feedback.”

But like Raikkonen, he tempered his optimism.

“In terms of performance, I don’t think our competitors – one in particular – have shown their true potential over these past days,” Arrivabene said, likely referring to reigning World Champions Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes. “I think we will only discover the truth about them and about ourselves at the last Barcelona test session.”

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.”