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Button: Q1 exit in Azerbaijan not a reflection of McLaren’s pace

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Jenson Button called his Q1 exit in qualifying for the European Grand Prix on Saturday “a real shame”, believing it not to be a fair reflection of McLaren’s pace.

Button and McLaren arrived in Baku, Azerbaijan hopeful of bouncing back from an early retirement last weekend in Canada.

Despite laying down a good pace during practice on Friday, Button was unable to get past the first stage of qualifying at the Baku City Circuit, finishing down in 19th place.

The Briton bailed on his final quick lap, reporting to the team: “Yeah it’s not happening… F*** it!” before coming into the pits.

“In Q1, I locked up into Turn 15 – we’d fitted new brakes ahead of quali, which we always do, but they were a bit more ‘grabby’” Button explained.

“It’s a real shame because I’d been seventh or eighth all weekend – and while I’m not sure we’re that quick, we’re definitely not 19th either.

“It isn’t easy around here because of the traffic, but after I’d flat-spotted, I did a donut to spin the car back around, and that isn’t usually the best thing for these tires, so we should have come in and fitted a fresh set of tyres for the rest of Q1.

“We thought we’d have more of a margin – but that wasn’t quite the case.

“We just need to have some fun tomorrow.”

In the second McLaren, Fernando Alonso was unable to continue his run of Q3 appearances, qualifying 14th in Baku.

“14th position isn’t ideal, but we saw how many incidents there were, and how many people went off during qualifying, so there’s still everything to fight for tomorrow,” an upbeat Alonso said after the session.

“A safety car or an incident could quickly put us in a position to score points – so that has to be our aim.

“Whatever opportunity comes our way, we’ll be there, focused and ready, to take it.”

The European Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 8am ET on Sunday.

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.”