Massa fastest for Williams as final F1 pre-season test begins

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Felipe Massa has begun the third and final pre-season F1 test of the year in the best possible fashion by topping the timesheets ahead of Marcus Ericsson and Lewis Hamilton.

The last four-day test of the winter kicked off today in Barcelona, with Massa posting a fastest lap time of 1:23.500 to finish over seven-tenths of a second clear of Sauber’s Ericsson as Williams began to show its true colors.

After focusing on long runs and reliability in the first two tests, the British team finally stirred as Massa recorded the fastest lap time so far from the five days of running at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Williams’ pace was underpinned by a trouble-free day that saw the Brazilian complete over 100 laps, with his fastest time being set on the soft compound tire.

Sauber had failed to continue its early testing pace in Barcelona last week, but showed signs of improvement today as Ericsson finished second with a fastest lap of 1:24.610 on the super-soft tire. With 120 laps in the book, the Swede also finished with the most mileage as a number of teams struggled on Thursday.

Lewis Hamilton managed to continue Mercedes’ impressive medium-tire pace by finishing third, but failed to get out in the afternoon session following an MGU-K failure on his W06 Hybrid. The Briton finished with just 48 laps to his name, and will be hoping for better luck when he returns to the car on Saturday.

Carlos Sainz and Jenson Button also hit trouble, finishing seventh and eighth on the timesheets respectively. Sainz’s day was interrupted by an off at turn ten in the afternoon that brought out a red flag, although he did still managed to complete 85 laps. Button was less fortunate, with another problem on the Honda power unit limiting the McLaren driver to just seven laps as the team continued to struggle.

Red Bull’s day got off to a bad start when Daniil Kvyat’s car ground to a halt at the end of the pit lane, but the issue was minor enough to allow the Russian to get back out on track soon after the stoppage. He eventually finished fourth in the final standings ahead of Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen.

For many of the teams on Thursday, the running was more about evaluating their new parts ahead of the season opener in Australia as opposed to finding the optimum lap time. Although Massa and Williams finished at the top, the advantage does still appear to lie with Mercedes, with the Silver Arrows’ medium-tire pace giving its rivals serious cause for concern.

Testing continues at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Friday, with Force India set to debut its new 2015 car in the afternoon session.

Barcelona 2nd Test Day 1 – Final Classification

1. Felipe Massa Williams 1:23.500 (103 laps)
2. Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:24.276 +0.776 (122)
3. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:24.881 +1.381 (48)
4. Daniil Kvyat Red Bull 1:25.947 +2.447 (75)
5. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:26.177 +2.677 (75)
6. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:26.327 +2.827 (80)
7. Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso 1:26.962 +3.462 (86)
8. Jenson Button McLaren 1:31.479 +7.979 (7)

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

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
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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.”