Fresh penalties for Alonso and Button take McLaren’s grid drop to 50 places

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Without even checking the record books, you can be sure that McLaren’s combined total of a 50-place grid drop for the Austrian Grand Prix is a new Formula 1 record.

Perhaps the more pressing question is “how is that even possible?”

Well, this is modern-day Formula 1 for you. So let’s run from the top.

We knew yesterday that Fernando Alonso had been hit with a 20-place grid penalty after taking a number of new power unit components including a new internal combustion engine, a new MGU-H and a new turbocharger.

However, the Spaniard suffered yet another stoppage out on track during the final free practice session on Saturday, which turned out to be a transmission issue.

As a result, his car required a brand new gearbox, resulting in another five place penalty and taking his overall grid drop to 25 places.

Jenson Button – not wishing to be outdone – has also got to serve a 25-place drop after McLaren made a number of changes to his power unit overnight. As per the stewards’ report:

1) 10 grid positions for 6th TC (1st 6th element used)
2) 5 grid positions for 6th MGU-H (1st remaining 6th element used)
3) 5 grid positions for 5th ICE (1st remaining 5th element used)
4) 5 grid positions for 5th MGU-K (1st remaining 5th element used)

So 10 + 5 + 5 + 5 = 25, meaning that after qualifying 17th, Button will start 42nd for the race tomorrow, right?

No. Of course, with only 20 cars on the grid, he can only serve three places. As a result, he will have to serve a ten second stop/go penalty during tomorrow’s race, as per the regulations.

“I was one of the first to cross the finish line in Q1, so everyone had a bit more time to improve while the circuit was drying,” Button said. “But I enjoyed it out there – it was actually a lot of fun. When the surface was tricky and unpredictable, I was looking pretty good.

“Once the circuit dried – and other people found their feet – I was only able to do what the car could do. I think there could have been a chance of getting into Q3 if the conditions had remained mixed.”

“I also thought I was going to have a good battle with Fernando tomorrow, but we’ll get different penalties so I won’t be racing him. This just hasn’t been my weekend.”

Alonso qualified 15th at the Red Bull Ring on Saturday, meaning that he can go back four places by dropping to P19 ahead of Button. Therefore, he too will have to serve an in-race penalty.

“The car felt good today – the new aero package means it feels more competitive in the corners,” Alonso said after qualifying. “It’s just a bit unfortunate that this is a high power-effect circuit, so we can’t maximise everything. Still, we’re moving in the right direction, which is very positive.

“We’ve had a lot of problems throughout free practice, so we definitely need to improve reliability, and we’ll have some extra penalties when the race starts. It’s really a learning weekend for us – we’re running the cars in different configurations – but hopefully that will increase our learning.”

Just to put things into perspective, here’s a stat about how McLaren’s penalty compares to its recent misdemeanors.

The Austrian Grand Prix is live from 7:30am ET on NBCSN and Live Extra 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.”