Ricciardo excited to get new F1 season underway on home soil

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The first race of the new Formula 1 season is always a poignant and exciting event, but for Daniel Ricciardo, it means a great deal more given that he will be racing at his home grand prix.

Ricciardo is the only Australian driver currently racing in F1, and did the home fans proud in 2014 by finishing on the podium in his first race for Red Bull.

He was eventually disqualified due to a fuel irregularity, but this did not stop the 25-year-old from enjoying a sensational year that saw him finish third in the championship with three race wins.

Now, with his home grand prix just eight days away, Ricciardo is relishing the prospect of getting back on track and kick-starting Red Bull’s 2015 on home soil.

“I’m just excited to finally go racing again,” Ricciardo said. “And for me it’s fun. Obviously I’m really privileged having it at home, but in any case, it means it’s a start to a new year. There is always new motivation and I think it’s exciting.

“Testing has been relatively good for us. We had a few reliability issues but we racked up a lot of miles and learned a lot. I still feel that we have a bit more to go. But there is no better place to do this than going racing. I’m ready to go.”

The Australian Grand Prix is always a well-attended event, and Ricciardo is delighted to be heading back down under for the start of the 2015 season.

“I love going home and the fresh air really gives me that home feeling,” he said. “I spend so much time now away from Australia, that anywhere in Oz feels like home really. It’s the cars, the accent, the food and the weather.

“The whole vibe and atmosphere is just amazing. It’s busy and there is always something going on. The track is fun. I’ve always liked street circuits. I think it’s a great and fast flowing circuit.”

The 2015 F1 season gets underway with practice for the Australian Grand Prix on March 13, with the race taking place two days later.

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.”