Verstappen confident of points despite Q2 drop-out

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Max Verstappen believes that he can still finish inside the top ten at tomorrow’s Chinese Grand Prix despite dropping out in the second stage of qualifying on Saturday.

Verstappen, 17, became the youngest points scorer in the history of Formula 1 at the Malaysian Grand Prix two weeks ago, finishing the race in seventh place.

However, he was unable to continue this good form in qualifying at the Shanghai International Circuit, finishing 13th in Q2 ahead of Toro Rosso teammate Carlos Sainz Jr.

Nevertheless, the Dutchman was pleased with his performance on Saturday, believing that the team has made a step forwards with the car over the weekend.

“I’m happy with how the car has improved compared to yesterday,” Verstappen said. “In FP3 we looked stronger and even though this is a very tricky track, I kept working to find the right balance and finally I found it just in time for the qualifying session.

“Of course, my 13th position doesn’t show exactly where we should have been, as I think Q3 was possible for me today, but a lock-up at turn six prevented me from it.

“We now have a bit more work to do for tomorrow, but I think we can be strong. We have a good race pace so I’m confident we will be able to fight for points again.”

Sainz shared his teammate’s optimism, believing that the race pace of the STR10 car should allow him to fight for points in the race on Sunday.

“This morning in FP3 we made a step forward in terms of performance and the car felt better, but when we went into qualy this afternoon we didn’t manage to find that extra bit,” Sainz said.

“By missing out on two or three tenths we didn’t get into Q3 and we’re not in the best position for tomorrow.

“However, we know that we have a decent pace on long runs and we showed some good consistency yesterday, so to finish in the top ten is still our main target.”

The Chinese Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 1:30a ET on Sunday.

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.”