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Hembery: Opening 2016 F1 test as expected for Pirelli

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Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery says that the opening Formula 1 test of 2016 in Barcelona went as expected for the series’ tire supplier in terms of the performance of its compounds.

Pirelli has made some minor alterations to its compounds heading into 2016, as well as providing a new ‘ultra-soft’ tire that will be used at races with low degradation such as Monaco and Canada.

All five of Pirelli’s dry compounds were used at stages over the four days of running in Barcelona, and although Hembery refused to read too much into it, he was happy with the data that did come out.

“There are not too many conclusions you can read into the first test of the season, as teams are all trying different things with different specifications of car, making it quite hard to interpret from the outside the characteristics of each tire,” Hembery said.

“However, from the inside, all the data we have seen so far indicates that the overall tire performance is about where we expected it to be, during both longer and shorter runs.

“Our biggest news was the debut of P Zero Purple ultra-soft tire, which set the fastest time of the test and provided the extra performance we had aimed for, even though Barcelona is not the type of circuit it is particularly suited to.”

However, the new compounds were not to everyone’s liking, with three-time world champion Lewis Hamilton criticizing the tires Pirelli had designed.

“It’s not better, that’s for sure,” Hamilton said when asked how they compared to last year’s.

“It’s definitely not a better tire. It just feels like a harder tire, it’s not giving me any more grip. I think I prefer last year’s.”

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.”