Ricciardo quickest for Red Bull on day two in Barcelona (VIDEO)

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Daniel Ricciardo has finished fastest on the second day of running at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya as the F1 pre-season hit its halfway point.

With six days down and six to go in winter testing, Ricciardo put in an impressive display for Red Bull by finishing quickest with a lap time of 1:24.574.

The team also managed to iron out most of the minor issues that had limited its running on Thursday as the Australian completed 143 laps at the top of the timesheets.

After a frenetic first day of testing in Barcelona on Thursday, Friday was far quieter in comparison. There were still three red flag periods, with one that lasted just 12 seconds being issued for Ricciardo after his car stopped at the end of the pit lane. The team soon wheeled him back to the garage and then sent him out again a few minutes later.

Ricciardo went on to complete a full race simulation of 66 laps on Friday, with his fastest lap going unbeaten at the top of the timesheets during the afternoon session.

Kimi Raikkonen continued Ferrari’s impressive pre-season form in second place, finishing just ten-thousandths of a second shy of Ricciardo’s best time. The Finn will next get behind the wheel of the SF15-T at the final test in Barcelona as he hands the reins over to Sebastian Vettel for the final two days of this test. Felipe Massa and Sergio Perez followed the Ferrari driver on the timesheets in third and fourth place respectively.

After coming down with a fever on Thursday, Lewis Hamilton made a surprise return to the track today after taking over from Nico Rosberg for the afternoon session. Mercedes confirmed that it opted to stand Rosberg down after the morning running to ensure that the German driver remains fresh for his next run on Sunday.

Both Silver Arrows put in an impressive display, with Hamilton finishing fifth ahead of Rosberg in P6. However, the drivers posted their fastest lap times on the medium tire, suggesting that they have plenty of time in reserve. The reliability of the W06 Hybrid was also evident once again as the team completed over 150 laps.

McLaren had not expected to manage any meaningful mileage after a failure on the MGU-K curtailed its Thursday running, with a new part not expected to arrive until Saturday. Nevertheless, Fernando Alonso still managed to complete 59 laps, even if the car could not manage more than five or six at a time.

2014 GP2 champion Jolyon Palmer began life in his reserve driver role at Lotus by completing all of the team’s running on Friday in Barcelona. A morning full of aero evaluations and tests meant that he could only manage 77 laps in total, managing a fastest time of 1:26.280 that left him eighth in the classification.

Following Ricciardo’s short stoppage, there were two red flags later on in the day. The second stoppage came courtesy of Carlos Sainz Jr. after a spin at turn nine, ending up in the gravel. The Toro Rosso driver still managed to rack up of 100 laps, but propped up the standings down in tenth place.

Just ahead of Sainz was Marcus Ericsson for Sauber, who stopped on the main straight in the final hour of running to warrant the third and final red flag of the day.

At the top though, Ricciardo put in an impressive display to finish ahead of Raikkonen and Massa, but the advantage does still appear to lie with Mercedes for the time being. With six days of running left until the start of the season, all of the teams will be hoping to up their pace and get everything in line before they leave Barcelona next weekend.

Barcelona Day 2 – Final Classification

1. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:24.574 (143 laps)
2. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:24.585 +0.010 (90)
3. Felipe Massa Williams 1:24.672 +0.098 (88)
4. Sergio Perez Force India 1:24.702 +0.128 (121)
5. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:24.923 +0.349 (89)
6. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:25.556 +0.982 (66)
7. Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:25.961 +1.387 (59)
8. Jolyon Palmer Lotus 1:26.280 +1.706 (77)
9. Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:27.334 +2.760 (113)
10. Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso 1:28.945 +4.371 (100)

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.”