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Webber: F1 keeps drivers in their comfort zone

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Mark Webber believes that modern-day Formula 1 is not demanding enough on drivers, keeping them in their comfort zone and creating a lack of depth in the field.

Webber walked away from F1 at the end of the 2013 season to race for Porsche’s revived LMP1 team in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

The Australian driver enjoyed an 11-year career in F1, finishing third in the drivers’ championship on three occasions with Red Bull.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live in the UK as part of a promotional tour for his new book, Webber hit out at the current grid for lacking depth in the bottom half of the field.

“These guys are on a phenomenal level but the depth has never been weaker,” Webber said.

“We need to get the caliber that we have at the front of the grid. We need more depth and the cars to be faster.

“If you go from the top ten back, there are a lot of pay drivers. This is not good.

“The drivers want cars that are more demanding. It’s a bit like being an F-18 fighter pilot but flying for British Airways. They’re within their comfort zone, pacing races.”

Webber believes that F1 should always remain the pinnacle of motorsport and the most demanding series, but that it has lost ground on other championships in recent years.

“It’s frustrating,” he said. “F1 should be the pinnacle. It should be by far the fastest through the corners, physical on the drivers and things where the drivers are the gladiators again.

“The car needs to be something the fans have never seen anything like before. There are so many categories which are close to them now.”

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.”