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Stoffel Vandoorne sets sights on 2017 McLaren F1 seat

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Stoffel Vandoorne has set his sights on securing a seat in Formula 1 with McLaren for the 2017 season, but concedes that he may explore other options if a role is not freed up.

Vandoorne won last year’s GP2 title in emphatic fashion, racking up seven victories to win the championship with almost double the score of nearest rival Alexander Rossi.

For 2016, Vandoorne will move to Japan to race in Super Formula in order to keep him race-ready and sharp ahead of a possible F1 promotion next year.

Vandoorne said that he is targeting a seat in F1 for 2017, ideally with McLaren, but remains focused on the coming year and proving himself in Super Formula.

“It’s still a bit early days, we’re only at the start of 2016,” Vandoorne said. “But yeah obviously during the course of the season I’ll have to focus on 2017, and that’s definitely the time where I want to be in Formula 1.

“Hopefully that will be with McLaren, that’s where I would very much like to be. I’m contracted to them as well.

“But yeah, if there’s no space here, then if there are any other options available, then I have to consider them.

“But at the moment it’s still too early to know anything about that.”

Vandoorne said that he feels like he is stepping into unknown territory by entering Super Formula, but is confident that it is the right move to ensure he is still sharp and keeps racing through 2016.

“I feel like I’m stepping a little bit into the unknown,” Vandoorne said. “However I feel I have a good team around me, it’s Docomo Team Dandelion, it’s one of the best Honda teams. They’ve had good results in the past and I feel that’s the right place to be with the support of Honda.

“Obviously it’s a big championship. There’s quite a few big names, European guys as well, quite a few good Japanese drivers who have been there for a long time, and I think that makes it very tough to go in there and beat them from the word go.

“It’s going to be a tough ask but I’ll do my work as usual which I’ve done in every other series. What the result will be is very difficult to say but the main thing is that I can drive something this year and really be prepared for 2017.”

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.”