Rosberg quickest in opening practice for Austrian GP

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Nico Rosberg kicked off the Austrian Grand Prix weekend in the best possible fashion by topping the opening practice session on Friday morning at the Red Bull Ring.

Rosberg posted a fastest lap time of 1:10.401 to finish three-tenths of a second clear of Mercedes teammate and championship rival Lewis Hamilton at the top of the timesheets.

First practice in Spielberg resembled something more akin to a pre-season test session as a number of teams ran with new parts, evaluated upgrades and hit trouble with their cars.

Fernando Alonso was the first driver to suffer a problem early in the session when his brand-new Honda engine lost power, forcing him to crawl back to the pits. Although the Spaniard managed to get out later in the session, McLaren teammate Jenson Button also had an issue with his car that forced him to pit.

Ferrari’s hopes of taking the fight to Mercedes this weekend were dealt a blow when Sebastian Vettel suffered a gearbox problem, leaving him at the bottom of the timesheets and on the back foot for the rest of the weekend.

For Mercedes though, it was business as usual at the front with Rosberg and Hamilton leading the way. Kimi Raikkonen kept Ferrari heads up by finishing the session in third place, whilst Williams ran well in the first session as Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa finished third and ninth respectively.

Felipe Nasr made good on his belief that Sauber would fare well in Austria by finishing fifth in FP1, just ahead of Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo. Max Verstappen finished just behind Toro Rosso’s big brother team in eighth place, whilst Sergio Perez rounded out the top ten.

Be sure to join us for FP2 live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 8am ET on Friday.

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
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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.”