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Rosberg controls Bahrain GP to claim fifth straight F1 victory

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Nico Rosberg continued his Formula 1 winning streak by recording his fifth consecutive grand prix victory with a dominant display in Bahrain on Sunday.

Rosberg made a good start to seize the lead from Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton off the line, but after the Briton got tangled in an incident at the first corner, it was left to Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen to take the fight to the leader.

Rosberg kept his cool to control the majority of the race and continue his perfect start to the 2016 season following his victory in Australia, while Haas F1 Team’s second race went even better than its first as Romain Grosjean came home in fifth place for the American outfit.

En route to the grid, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel suffered an engine failure that meant he was unable to start the race, while Jolyon Palmer also pitted at the end of the formation lap to retire due to an issue on his Renault.

Rosberg made a clean getaway off the line to lead Hamilton into the first corner after the Briton bogged down. The fast-starting Valtteri Bottas tried to move up the inside of Hamilton, only for the two to make contact, causing Hamilton to drop down to ninth place.

Hamilton soon began to make up positions by passing the Haas duo of Esteban Gutierrez and Grosjean in the early stages, but further drama was unfolding further back as Carlos Sainz Jr. and Sergio Perez made contact, forcing both to pit for repairs early on.

The race soon settled down with Rosberg forging a healthy lead at the front of the pack ahead of Felipe Massa, who now ran second for Williams ahead of teammate Bottas, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and the sole-remaining Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, with Hamilton sitting behind in sixth.

Bottas was hit with a drive-through penalty soon after making his first pit stop for causing the collision with Hamilton at the first corner, while the Briton’s fightback continued. He rose to third before making his first stop, trailing Rosberg and Raikkonen up front at the end of the first stint.

Romain Grosjean continued his good form from the Australian Grand Prix by running as high as fourth in the first stint before pitting at the end of lap 11. By this point he was the only Haas driver left in the race after Esteban Gutierrez was forced to retire due to an issue on his car after 10 laps.

Rosberg’s 18-second advantage up front allowed Mercedes to pits both of its drivers at the end of lap 13, with Hamilton re-emerging in sixth place. Raikkonen had risen to second after passing Ricciardo and Massa, who quickly lost out to Hamilton on the medium tire. With Rosberg on softs, Mercedes had opted to split its drivers’ strategies.

Grosjean’s charge continued at the expense of Massa as he put his super-soft tires to good use, seizing fifth place and dropping the Brazilian into the clutches of Max Verstappen behind. He quickly caught up with Ricciardo in fourth before pulling off a brave pass at Turn 4, leaving only Rosberg, Raikkonen and Hamilton ahead.

Mercedes’ varying strategies continued at the second round of pit stops as Rosberg moved onto the soft tires, while Hamilton switched to super-softs. Both were three-stopping, but Rosberg continued to hold the advantage despite having a slow pit stop, enjoying a buffer of nine seconds over Raikkonen behind.

With the medium tire failing to hold up as it did in Australia, most opted for a three-stop strategy. Grosjean pitted from fourth to take on another set of super-soft tires, leaving him in a battle with Ricciardo, Verstappen and the two-stopping Kvyat for fourth place to the end of the race.

Ferrari looked to put some more pressure on Mercedes by bringing Raikkonen in early, forcing the German marque into covering him off. Rosberg had a slow final stop as he moved onto the soft tire, which combined with traffic allowed Raikkonen to sit just 3.8 seconds behind as the final stint of the race began.

Mercedes opted to keep Hamilton out for another four laps before bringing him in for the final time, allowing Rosberg and Raikkonen to escape up the road thanks to the undercut. With five seconds separating them and 15 laps to go, the battle for the lead was far from over.

Grosjean’s hopes of a fourth place finish took a late blow after a slow final pit stop, dropping him back into eighth place. This allowed Ricciardo to pull out a greater advantage after making his final stop, while Verstappen and Massa also lay ahead as they tried to two-stop the race.

However, Grosjean quickly found his feet on the soft tires for the final stint. He eased past Massa as the Brazilian struggled on his worn mediums, while pit stops for Verstappen and Kvyat elevated the Haas driver up into fifth place with 10 laps to go.

Up front, Raikkonen did his best to pile pressure on Rosberg in the closing stages, but was powerless to stop the German driver from recording his fifth straight grand prix victory and his first under the lights in Bahrain.

Raikkonen came home 10 seconds down on Rosberg, while Hamilton was left to settle for third place, leaving him 17 points adrift of his teammate in the championship standings after two races.

Ricciardo made his three-stop strategy work well to end up fourth, while Grosjean’s charge saw him finish the race in P5, going one better than his sixth-place finish in Haas’ debut race in Australia two weeks ago.

Max Verstappen ended Toro Rosso’s bizarre run of never scoring points in Bahrain by finishing sixth, pulling a late pass on Massa who continue to toil on his medium tires. The Williams driver ultimately finished eighth behind Daniil Kvyat, who battled back from 15th on the grid to finish seventh.

Valtteri Bottas finished ninth for Williams, while Stoffel Vandoorne made a splash on his F1 debut to finish 10th and score McLaren’s first point of the season.

Kevin Magnussen finished 11th for Renault after a spirited late battle with fellow Scandinavian Marcus Ericsson. Pascal Wehrlein enjoyed a strong race to finish 13th for Manor behind Ericsson at the flag.

Force India struggled as Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg crossed the line in 14th and 16th respectively, split by Sauber’s Felipe Nasr, while Rio Haryanto was the last classified finisher in 17th.

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.”