Abt loses win chance, but hangs on for first Formula E podium in Miami

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MIAMI – Daniel Abt’s day at the office in Miami was pretty close to perfect, except for the final two laps.

The driver of the No. 66 Audi Sport ABT entry was well positioned to win his first FIA Formula E Championship race, but the German was forced to back off and conserve enough energy for the finish despite leading Laps 23 to 37 in the 39-lap Miami ePrix.

If today was a case of losing the race but gaining the podium with third place, it was certainly a day where Abt capitalized on his yearlong pace and actually got the result to go with it.

“I’m extremely happy to be on the podium,” Abt said in the post-race press conference. “The first race I thought I had it and then it was pulled away. We’ve had many chances to get close to podium and never made it. Finally we put everything together.”

Abt started third in each of the first two races this year, but ended 10th in both.

The German sprung into the lead courtesy of a split strategy between he and teammate Lucas di Grassi during the race. Abt became net leader on the pit sequence halfway through the race, and took over the outright lead by Lap 23, after Nick Heidfeld pitted.

Abt had the lead but did not have enough energy life left to last the duration, and he also had a pack of challengers behind him threatening to pass. Eventual winner Nicolas Prost finally did on the second-to-last lap, with Scott Speed following shortly thereafter for second.

“It feels really bad, especially when you’re leading,” Abt admitted. “It was my first time leading and you know it’s going to get tougher, tougher. Every lap you see you’re not really on target, they had one lap less so they could go really fast.

“I tried to push and stay ahead, but I knew there was no way I’m gonna make it. Then it’s better to let them go ahead and make it safe instead of doing something crazy and that’s what I decided to do.”

The result could be a breakthrough run for the GP2 veteran, who also tested an IndyCar this offseason for Andretti Autosport. Abt will look to build on the result in Long Beach in three weeks time.

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.”