Hulkenberg: B-spec Force India living up to expectations

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Nico Hulkenberg offered positive feedback about the B-spec Force India VJM08 car ahead of this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix, believing that it has lived up to the team’s expectations.

Following a winter blighted by financial uncertainty, Force India only debuted its 2015 car at the final pre-season test in Barcelona, putting itself on the back foot ahead of the start of the season.

However, the team managed to battle on and currently ranks fifth in the constructors’ championship despite only debuting its updated car at the British Grand Prix three weeks ago.

Speaking ahead of the race in Hungary, Hulkenberg was upbeat about Force India’s chances for the coming weekend.

“Yeah, I think it’s going to be good and positive,” Hulkenberg said. “The B-spec car has really, so far, talking about Silverstone, lived up to the expectations what we wanted from it.

“So that’s very positive and encouraging. I think, obviously having collected a lot of data from both cars in the race, we’re able in those two weeks to go through it and optimise even more.

“Plus there is some more tweaks to the car here. I’m excited to see how we’re going to get on here.”

His optimism was shared by Force India teammate Sergio Perez, who believes that the team’s pace at Silverstone proved just how much progress it has made.

“I’m very optimistic coming into this track,” Perez said. “I think what we’ve shown in Silverstone was just the proof that the car has improved massively.

“So I think in a track like this it will be really interesting to see how we go because obviously here the engine is not so important.

“I think our car has improved a lot and we have plenty of data to analyze from the weekend before, so I think we have plenty of reasons to be optimistic into this weekend.”

However, this optimism faded on Friday when Perez suffered a frightening flip during the first practice session following a suspension failure.

Force India opted to withdraw both of its cars from FP2 whilst its engineers got to the root of the problem on Perez’s car.

Chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer confirmed that the investigations into the issue were still ongoing, but that he was pleased with the team’s limited running on Friday.

“It’s been a challenging day as we try to understand the right rear suspension failure on Sergio’s car,” Szafnauer said. “The accident cut short our morning and we opted to withdraw from the afternoon session as a precaution until we had a clear understanding of the problem.

“Those investigations remain ongoing and will continue this evening to ensure we can resume running on Saturday.

“Up until the accident, the morning had looked quite promising for both drivers. We had some aero measurement devices fitted to the cars and carried out some work with the medium tires.

“Losing the afternoon puts us on the back foot, but I’m optimistic we can recover some of the lost ground tomorrow to be ready for qualifying.”

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.”