Hamilton tops quiet second Monaco GP practice

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Lewis Hamilton continued his good start to the Monaco Grand Prix weekend by finishing fastest in a quiet second free practice session on Thursday afternoon.

The Mercedes driver posted a fastest lap time of 1:17.192 to finish seven-tenths of a second clear of teammate Nico Rosberg at the top of the timesheets.

However, the session was noteworthy for the lack of on-track action in the final hour of the 90-minute scheduled run time.

Most of the drivers opted to head out early on in FP2 with the soft compound tire fitted in a bid to evaluate their one-lap pace for qualifying on Saturday, with Hamilton and Rosberg setting the pace. Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen followed for Ferrari in third and fourth place, suggesting that the Italian team will once again be the best of the rest once again this weekend.

The session was brought to a halt after 15 minutes when Roberto Merhi crashed into the wall at the exit of the tunnel, damaging the front end of his Manor car and leaving debris strewn across the track.

By the time his car had been cleared and the track was green again, rain had begun to fall on the circuit. Pastor Maldonado was sent out by Lotus on the super-soft tire, only for the team to quickly realize its mistake and order the Venezuelan to carefully return to the pits and miss the wet patches.

Once Maldonado had pitted, the rain grew stronger. With no wet weather forecast for the rest of the weekend, the teams opted to rest their cars, meaning that there was no on-track action until the final ten minutes of the session.

Most of the drivers opted to head out on track on the intermediate tire late on, and although it is unlikely to be of much use, the wet weather data could be handy to teams should rain strike over the weekend.

Kvyat continued Red Bull’s good start to the Monaco weekend by finishing fifth in the final standings, ranking ahead of Toro Rosso drivers Carlos Sainz Jr and Max Verstappen. Alonso finished eighth for McLaren, whilst Nico Hulkenberg and Romain Grosjean rounded out the top ten in ninth and tenth place respectively.

With dry weather forecast for the rest of the weekend, there is unlikely to be any repeat of this quiet session in FP3 on Saturday. Once again though, it is Mercedes who set the pace, and the Silver Arrows will be preparing for another intra-team fight for pole and the race win on Saturday and 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.”