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F1 2015 Driver Review: Max Verstappen

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Max Verstappen

Team: Scuderia Toro Rosso
Car No.: 33
Races: 19
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: 4th (Hungary, USA)
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 49
Laps Led: 0
Championship Position: 12th

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

It is difficult to put into words the achievement of Max Verstappen in 2015. After being thrust into the spotlight to make his Formula 1 debut with just one season of single-seater racing under his belt, the Dutchman wasted little time in making an impression.

Verstappen was unfortunate not to score any points on debut in Australia, but he quickly made up for it with his first top ten finish of the year in Malaysia. Further points followed in Austria before he finished fourth in Hungary, marking Toro Rosso’s best finish in a race since Sebastian Vettel left the team in 2008.

Verstappen enjoyed a strong second half of the year that included a run of six straight points finishes, including another fourth place finish in Austin, despite being on the wrong strategy at the end of the race. He comfortably finished 2015 as the top rookie in the drivers’ championship.

And yet it was not his final score that made 2015 so impressive for Verstappen. Instead, it was the fine race craft he showed week in, week out. When thinking about the overtake of the year, Verstappen is the only name that really comes up: his dive down the inside of Marcus Ericsson in China; his ballsy move on Pastor Maldonado in Monaco; his bravery in passing Felipe Nasr around the outside of Blanchimont at Spa; his moves around the outside of Turn 1 at Interlagos. They are all signs of greatness from a driver destined to tear up the record books.

Oh, and he’s only 18. Just in case you missed it.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

It was a shame, I thought, that the FIA reacted to Max Verstappen’s promotion to Formula 1 with the introduction not just of superlicense points, but more crucially the 18-year-old age limit for racing. Frankly, Red Bull wouldn’t have placed him at Toro Rosso if they didn’t think he could get the job done – age be damned – and so it was that the 17-year-old Dutchman did just that in an amazing rookie season.

He was on course to score points in his debut at Australia before mechanical woes – a common story in either Red Bull camp this year. And his misjudged move on Romain Grosjean at Monaco was a true rookie mistake that earned him a five-placed grid penalty.  Other than those two negatives, Verstappen was obviously driving beyond his years for the majority of the rest of the season.

In the six intervening years between when Sebastian Vettel got promoted to Red Bull, Toro Rosso had a grand total of zero top-five finishes between Sebatien Bourdais, Sebastien Buemi, Jaime Alguersuari, Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat. Verstappen had two, and he was also a consistent points finisher with eight in the last 10 races. The undisputed rookie-of-the-year could well podium before he turns 20, and perhaps begin his own assault on Vettel’s records.

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.”