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Esteban Gutierrez: New Haas F1 car above expectations

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BARCELONA – Esteban Gutierrez says that the new Haas Formula 1 car is better than he expected it to be after enjoying his first test in Barcelona on Tuesday.

Gutierrez joined Haas for the 2016 season after spending a year off the grid working as Ferrari’s reserve driver.

The Mexican driver today enjoyed his first full F1 test in nine months, finishing sixth in the final standings as Haas continued its strong start to the year.

When asked by MotorSportsTalk whether his first day of running had changed his expectations for the season ahead, Gutierrez admitted that he was pleasantly surprised by the car.

“To be honest, it’s better than what I expected,” Gutierrez said.

“The first installation lap, I was quite impressed. It seems that we have a good baseline.

“At the moment, we still don’t have the complete car, we are working on it. But I think having the approach to do as many laps as possible and get away from the reliability issues is right now the target for this test and try to look for some performance next week.”

Gutierrez made no secret of his delight after returning to the wheel of an F1 car, saying that it was a good start to the season.

“It’s been a very special day, very incredible to get on the installation lap finally a feeling of the car,” Gutierrez said.

“Obviously I had to be very patient last year. At the same time, my preparation has been very important, it was a very important year. Now that I’m back and have a good feeling of the car, enjoying driving the car, it’s already a positive start.”

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.”