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Buemi cruises to Beijing ePrix victory for Renault e.dams

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Sebastien Buemi kicked off the second FIA Formula E season in the best possible fashion by winning the Beijing ePrix on Saturday.

After heading up a Renault e.dams front-row lock-out in the series’ first Super Pole session earlier in the day, Buemi retained his lead at the start before controlling proceedings throughout the race en route to his fourth Formula E victory.

Teammate Nicolas Prost lost second place off the line to Nick Heidfeld, and was unable to put the pace advantage of the Renault e.dams car to good use thanks to the tight confines of the Beijing street circuit, leaving him to toil with Lucas di Grassi behind the Mahindra car ahead.

An early full course yellow – another new concept in Formula E – was thrown after Simona de Silvestro crashed out on lap three, giving the drivers a chance to save energy and push for a longer first stint.

Buemi used this to great effect, pulling out a lead of more than ten seconds over the field before making his mandatory pit stop at the end of lap 13. Most of the teams followed suit, with only Loic Duval, Jerome d’Ambrosio, Oliver Turvey, Nathanael Berthon and defending champion Nelson Piquet Jr. opting to stay out for an extra lap.

When a second FCY was called after Antonio Felix da Costa’s car was left stranded at turn two following a tangle with Jacques Villeneuve, the late-stoppers were able to vault up the order and into the top ten, handing the likes of Turvey, Berthon and Piquet an unlikely reprieve.

However, this high lasted just moments for Piquet as an issue caused him to stop out on track. Although he was able to get the NEXTEV TCR car going again, the Brazilian dropped all the way to last. He would eventually finish two laps down, marking a rough start to his title defence.

At the front, di Grassi and Prost had both managed to get the jump on Heidfeld for second place through the pit stops, and soon fired into the distance to begin their own battle.

Pushing hard, Prost overstepped the mark and clipped the wall, causing damage to his rear wing. Despite attempting to continue and, in his defence, keeping with di Grassi, the stewards soon forced Prost to pit, bringing his race to an end with three laps to go.

As Buemi and di Grassi eased home in P1 and P2 respectively, for the second Beijing ePrix in a row, Heidfeld was left with a tight battle on the last lap as Duval and d’Ambrosio tried to pass. Heidfeld managed to hold on, finishing just three-tenths of a second ahead to score Mahindra’s first podium in Formula E.

Duval and d’Ambrosio were forced to settle for fourth and fifth, but their combined result gives Dragon an early lead in the teams’ championship.

Oliver Turvey salvaged sixth place from a rough weekend for NEXTEV TCR, finishing ahead of Sam Bird and debutant Nathanael Berthon. Daniel Abt and Stephane Sarrazin rounded out the points in Beijing.

Formula E returns in two weeks’ time with the Putrajaya ePrix in Malaysia.

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.”