Montoya, Castroneves riff on Penske quartet’s nationalities post-race at Long Beach

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LONG BEACH, Calif. – Juan Pablo Montoya isn’t a comedian by trade, but he played one pretty well during the post-race press conference at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Montoya kicked off a conversation about chemistry at Team Penske by noting the nationalities of all four drivers in the team, and it basically went forward from there.

Here’s the transcript of that portion:

For both of you guys, obviously you were very strong here the first three races, the whole team. We haven’t had any speedway races yet so we can’t make any judgments, but could both of you talk about the strength you have of the team and your hopes for the championship and the Indy 500? At this point you guys are the favorites, but could you talk about how the chemistry is working, what the strength is and what your hopes are for the 500 and the season?

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: We have no chemistry here. It’s terrible. (Laughter.) Listen, a French, a Colombian, a Brazilian, and where is the other one from, Australia?

HELIO CASTRONEVES: I think that’s why we have the chemistry because we don’t understand each other.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: One of the amazing things about having the four of us being so competitive is you do a great lap in practice, you finish practicing, you look at the data and they’re still kicking your butt somewhere. They are. There’s always corners where they’re better than you so you always find ways to better yourself, and I think that’s more than the cars running better or whatever it is, I think the group of the four drivers is making a big difference.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, it’s like I said yesterday, the level that we have in our team, it’s not only as competitors but as people, as well, it’s just awesome. It’s great to have that kind of data because when you go back, and he just said it, we go look and it’s like, man, how does he do this. You try and work together. With that, the biggest benefit is the team, and when you have the team winning, you have Roger happy, and that’s when we all feel like we want to win for the team.

I want to follow up a little bit more. You are four very different people, different race car drivers. How does that dynamic work in making it easier to get along with each other because you’re both South American but you’re not even close to being similar.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: No, I mean, he dances. I can’t dance.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Thank God. I actually want to see you dance, man.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: No. Put it this way, I haven’t seen myself dance.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: That’s right.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: To tell you the truth, we’re all mature enough, we’ve done this long enough that I think it makes it easier. Because when you’re young, you’re really gritty and you don’t want to help anybody. And something at Team Penske, the No. 1 thing is the team and the benefit of the team, and we understand that and we all help each other.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, it was for me or for him? I agree with Juan Pablo. We’ve been here for long enough in this business, and yes, we want to win, we’re still young inside that we want to win everywhere

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Inside and outside.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yes, but the point is we want to go for it, but at the end of the day, we understand that some days are not our days, and we have maturity enough to understand, and being on this team for such a long time, it’s about team, and you know that even sometimes you don’t win, you contribute with a good performance, and you feel proud of it.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.