Rosberg takes European GP pole as Hamilton crashes out of qualifying

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Nico Rosberg will start the first European Grand Prix in Azerbaijan from pole position after setting the pace in a dramatic qualifying session in Baku on Saturday.

Rosberg edged out Force India’s Sergio Perez to take pole for Mercedes at the Baku City Circuit as teammate Lewis Hamilton made four mistakes across the course of a session marred by yellow flag periods.

Mercedes left it late to capture pole position after a mistake from Hamilton caused both drivers to lose their first run in Q3.

Hamilton was fortunate to get out of Q2 after making an error, with a third trip into the run-off area handing provisional pole to Perez.

When Hamilton made another mistake during his final run in Q3 and hit the wall before stopping on-track at Turn 10, it appeared that pole was Perez’s to take.

However, Rosberg managed to time his final effort perfectly to take P1 by seven-tenths of a second just moments before Q3 was red flagged, despite brushing the wall on his lap.

With the clock frozen at two minutes, drivers had enough time to get back out and try and squeeze in one more lap. However, traffic meant that only Daniel Ricciardo could improve his position, finishing third behind Rosberg and Perez.

Perez will drop to seventh on the grid by virtue of a penalty for changing his gearbox after a crash in FP3, lifting Ricciardo onto the front row of the grid for Ferrari.

Sebastian Vettel narrowly outqualified Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen for P4, leaving the Finn to settle for fifth place at the checkered flag. Both gain a place as a result of Perez’s penalty.

Felipe Massa impressed for Williams, finishing fifth in Q3 ahead of Daniil Kvyat and Valtteri Bottas. Max Verstappen finished ninth for Red Bull ahead of the crest-fallen Hamilton in P10.

With team owner Gene Haas and NASCAR driver Kurt Busch in attendance in Baku, Haas F1 Team had hoped to impress and get one of its cars through to Q3. However, Romain Grosjean was forced to settle for P11, narrowly missing out on a top-10 stat, while teammate Esteban Gutierrez was left 15th on the grid after a mistake on his final lap.

A radio mix-up left Nico Hulkenberg 12th on the grid, the German unaware that he had the tires or fuel to complete a late final effort in Q2, while Carlos Sainz Jr. struggled to match the pace of Toro Rosso teammate Kvyat, finishing 13th.

McLaren was unable to keep up its streak of Q3 appearances as Fernando Alonso could only qualify 14th, while teammate Jenson Button was knocked out in Q1 after damaging his tires while locking up, finishing 19th in the session.

Sauber impressed by getting one of its cars through to Q2 courtesy of Felipe Nasr, who finished 16th. Teammate Marcus Ericsson’s poor run of qualifying form continued as he finished 20th, only avoiding a last-row start after a quick final lap in Q1.

Manor enjoyed a strong showing in qualifying as both Rio Haryanto and Pascal Wehrlein came close to reaching Q2, finishing narrowly inside the dropzone in P17 and P18 respectively, just than two-tenths off Nasr’s time.

Renault’s difficult comeback season in F1 hit a new low as Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer locked out the back row of the grid, finishing eight-tenths of a second adrift of a Q2 berth.

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

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.”