Vettel fastest for Ferrari in final practice for Monaco GP

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Sebastian Vettel sent out a warning shot to Mercedes during final practice for the Monaco Grand Prix on Saturday morning by finishing half a second clear for Ferrari at the top of the timesheets.

After Thursday’s second practice session has been washed out, all of the drivers opted to head out early to try and fit more running into the hour-long session, and it was Vettel who set the pace with a fastest lap time of 1:16.143.

Ferrari opted to bide its time at the start of the session before sending Vettel and teammate Kimi Raikkonen out for a lap as Mercedes set the early pace with Lewis Hamilton at the front of the field.

In the dying stages of FP3, Vettel made the switch to the super-soft compound tire with low fuel for a qualifying simulation and produced a scintillating lap to go fastest of all.

Nico Rosberg tried to respond in the Mercedes W06 Hybrid, but did not find enough time and eventually fell two-tenths of a second short. Hamilton was unable to post a fast lap at the end due to traffic, leaving him half a second down in third place ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.

Carlos Sainz Jr and Max Verstappen ran strongly for Toro Rosso once again in FP3, finishing fifth and ninth respectively. Verstappen was unable to get out for a late lap time after hitting the wall and suffering damage to his rear wing, but remains set for a Q3 place in qualifying later today.

Kimi Raikkonen ran well on the soft compound tire to sit sixth at the end of the session, although he was forced to curtail his running early after clipping the wall at turn one with his left-rear tire. Although the damage looked minor, Ferrari will still be facing a race against time to get his car ready for qualifying later today.

Daniil Kvyat backed up Ricciardo’s result in the sister Red Bull to finish seventh, whilst Jenson Button showed that McLaren does stand a chance of getting into Q3 by ending the session in eight place. Romain Grosjean rounded out the top ten behind Verstappen.

With Ferrari now also in the running for pole position, qualifying later today is poised to be a thrilling affair. Join us for the full session live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 8am ET.

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.”