Hulkenberg seeks to fight through weather issues in prepping for USGP

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AUSTIN, Texas – Wet weather is bound to dominate Friday’s two free practice sessions and Saturday’s FP3 and qualifying ahead of this weekend’s United States Grand Prix (2:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, NBC).

So while the rain is due to pose a threat, Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg is at least hoping the team gets enough running in to prep for qualifying, while avoiding going too far on wet weather setup to compromise the team’s race on Sunday.

“Running in the wet is always fun. I personally like driving in the wet. You have to take it as it comes,” Hulkenberg told assembled reporters Thursday at Circuit of The Americas.

“It will have an impact if you don’t get much dry running. I think we’ve had this previously as well. You have to manage it, and it mixes things up.”

The Russian Grand Prix two weeks ago stood out for its lack of running on Friday, due to a slippery track surface, a session delay due to a diesel spill, and some other rain.

There’s 180 minutes worth of running on a Friday, between the two 90-minute free practice sessions. Sometimes the sessions aren’t that heavy on running.

But Hulkenberg said he prefers it where you’re not fighting for track time and struggling to get clear laps.

“I think I like it,” he said. “Coming up to Formula 1, in junior series, you have 30-minute cracks in GP2 and GP3.

“It’s cold water and you have to learn to swim, more or less. That puts more emphasis on the driver. You don’t have much time to work on your game.”

Hulkenberg also said that while he was happy for Sergio Perez to pick up a podium last time out in Sochi, he said had his first lap coming together with Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson, the race could have played out entirely different.

“Yeah (it’s bittersweet), but although my accident not happened and no safety car it could have been a completely different race,” he said. “Very positive for the team though to get a podium ahead of Mexico. Four races to the end of the season and I’m looking for a successful weekend.”

Hulkenberg also addressed the Baku/Le Mans date clash set for 2016, which will all but certainly rule out one of the three overall 24 Hours of Le Mans race winners from a chance to repeat.

He said interest between he and Porsche Team continues and they hope to continue together in the future.

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.”