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Rosberg confident of pace, wary of tires in Mexico

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Nico Rosberg felt confident after scoring his fourth consecutive pole position in qualifying for the Mexican Grand Prix on Saturday, but remains wary of how tire strategy may play out on the newly-surfaced Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit.

Formula 1 returns to Mexico for the first time since 1992 this weekend, and it was Rosberg who claimed pole position on Saturday after edging out Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton by two-tenths of a second at the end of Q3.

Speaking after the session, Rosberg was pleased to deliver on the pace that he had shown during practice in Mexico, but was cautious about the tire challenge posed by a green track.

“I just felt good all weekend,” Rosberg said. “I’ve been quick in all the sessions, and I found a good balance in qualifying. Thanks to my engineers and the team, I was able to push and get a good lap in.

“It’s a good start for sure, starting from pole. It’s a long run down to turn one so it’s going to be an exciting battle, and then I’m sure we have a good race car.

“It will be interesting tire-wise. There was some stuff going on on Friday which is going to be not so easy to handle in the race, I think, but we’re prepared well, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Rosberg and Hamilton came to blows in Austin over the latter’s aggressive overtake at turn one, but the German insisted that he would not be changing his approach as a result.

“It’s no different, it’s always going to be a battle and what’s in the past is in the past,” Rosberg said. “Now we move forward. It doesn’t change.”

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, qualifying third, tried to make light of the situation, saying to Rosberg and Hamilton: “Can you make sure you take both of you out so I can go through? Yes..? No..? I tried…” – he was met by silence from both Mercedes drivers.

Rosberg has converted just two of his last ten pole positions into a race win, and has not stood on the top step of the podium since the Austrian Grand Prix at the end of June.

Victory in Mexico would take Rosberg back ahead of Vettel in the race for second in the drivers’ championship, but with Hamilton keen to extend his win streak on Sunday, the German is likely to face a tough challenge from across the Mercedes garage.

The Mexican Grand Prix is live on NBC and Live Extra from 1:30pm ET on Sunday.

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

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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.”