Hamilton: Fastest ever Bahrain lap ‘incredible’ after struggles

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Lewis Hamilton made no secret of his delight after bouncing back from a series of defeats to Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix to take his 51st Formula 1 pole position on Saturday.

Hamilton trailed Rosberg in FP1, FP2, FP3 and Q1 before finally getting ahead in Q2 ahead of the final fight for pole.

Rosberg enjoyed the early advantage after Hamilton made a mistake on his first run to provisionally leave him fourth on the grid, only to dig deep and take pole position by 0.077 seconds.

“It’s not been a smooth sailing weekend in terms of pace, Nico’s been right on it all weekend,” Hamilton said.

“I was generally struggling to put laps together. Luckily the one lap that I did put together was the last lap, that was the only lap probably of the whole weekend so far. I hope the first of many. The car felt great.

“For my engineers and mechanics who were biting their nails throughout the weekend, working so hard to get the car to where it is today. Big thank you to everyone here and also at the factory.”

Hamilton’s lap of 1:29.493 was the fastest ever recorded around the Bahrain International Circuit, beating Mark Webber’s time of 1:29.527 set in practice for the 2005 race.

“It’s quite incredible to think we’re quicker now than the V10 days and it shows how far technology has come,” Hamilton said.

It is however worth noting that Hamilton’s time does not go down as the official lap record in Bahrain, with F1 rules stating that this must be set in the race.

The Bahrain Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 10:30am ET on Sunday.

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.”