Past Sauber driver Heidfeld laments its ongoing driver contract drama

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MIAMI – Nick Heidfeld will be seeking to break out of a tough four-race period to open the FIA Formula E Championship this weekend in Miami with Venturi.

But the German has kept an eye on what’s happening on the other side of the world, as the team with which Heidfeld spent the majority of his Formula 1 career, Sauber, is embroiled in the driver contract saga involving three drivers and two race seats.

The 1999 F3000 champion raced for Sauber three different times. He was full-time from 2001 to 2003 as Sauber, returned in 2006 when BMW took over the team as BMW Sauber through 2009, and took over for the final five races of the 2010 season when BMW departed, but Sauber retained its place on the grid.

Heidfeld said he understands both sides of the argument, but explained that drivers need to be treated correctly.

“Yeah I followed it the last couple days, because unfortunately it’s been the most exciting part of Formula 1 the last couple days although it’s a new season coming,” Heidfeld only half-jokingly told MotorSportsTalk ahead of this weekend’s Miami ePrix.

“I’m still quite attached to Sauber, as I spent the majority of my F1 career there.

“But on the other side you cannot have four or five (drivers), or let’s say you cannot have more than two contracts with drivers to do the season. I also have to think from the driver’s perspective, and sometimes drivers are not treated the way they should be.”

Giedo van der Garde, who was Sauber’s reserve driver last year, has won his legal case to be able to drive in this weekend’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix. But without an FIA Superlicense, he lacks the correct credentials to do so (more here from my MotorSportsTalk colleague Luke Smith).

As for his day job, Heidfeld is set for the reminder of the FE season with Venturi, and looks to dovetail that with selected sports car races. He did not confirm a team in sports cars; he has raced the last three seasons full-time with Rebellion Racing.

Heading into this weekend, he dismissed his tough starta near miss-win at China and a disqualification at Malaysia got things off to a rough start – and seeks a better weekend on the streets of Miami.

“Firstly I always like to think of things not in terms of bad luck, but then analyze things and see how I can improve and not get stuck in a bad situation,” Heidfeld said. “Sometimes you come to the conclusion where you cannot change anything. It’s not easy.

“The main thing is to focus on the next important thing, not the past, but the future. You have to do the best at the next race and not get your mind changed too much. I don’t like to think about bad luck. My normal approach I learned over the years is to keep calm and try improving.”

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.”