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Hamilton, Rosberg look to avoid each other at Hungarian GP

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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) No one has been able to stop Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg so far this season – except themselves.

The slow, twisting track of the Hungarian Grand Prix could prove challenging Sunday for the Mercedes teammates who have collided twice already this year.

After 10 races, Rosberg has five victories and leads the F1 championship with 168 points, but he has seen his lead over Hamilton, who has four wins, cut from 43 points to just one.

The season’s turning point came in May at the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona. Rosberg had won the first four races but the two Mercedes collided a few turns after the start and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took the checkered flag.

Since that fiasco, three-time world champion Hamilton has won four of five races, while Rosberg, championship runner-up in 2014 and 2015, has won just once. Halfway through the longest-ever Formula One season of 21 races, Mercedes has won nine of 10.

“The battle is on with Lewis and I’m feeling great in myself and great in the car, so bring it on,” Rosberg said ahead of the 31st Hungarian GP. “I can’t wait for the next battle between us in Budapest. It’s a tough circuit that really tests you as a driver.”

The Hungaroring has not been kind to Mercedes lately. Last year, Hamilton finished sixth here and Rosberg eighth – the only 2015 event in which neither driver had a podium finish when completing the race – while Hamilton was third in 2014 and Rosberg fourth.

Nonetheless, Hamilton has won four times in Hungary during his 10-year career.

“It’s a track that for some reason has always suited my style,” Hamilton said. “The past couple of years I haven’t had the smoothest weekends in Budapest, but I know I’ve got the pace so I’m gunning to turn that around this time.”

Besides the crash in Spain, Hamilton and Rosberg also collided in the last lap of the Austrian Grand Prix, as Hamilton attempted to pass Rosberg for the lead. Hamilton won the race but the German driver lost his front wing and had to settle for fourth.

Rosberg’s troubles continued at the last race, the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Hamilton won again and Rosberg fell from second to third after being penalized 10 seconds for receiving illegal assistance over the team radio.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen is third in the standings but 62 points behind Rosberg. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo has 100 points, two ahead of Raikkonen’s teammate Sebastian Vettel. Verstappen is sixth with 90 points and no one else has more than 54.

Mercedes isn’t relaxing.

The Hungaroring “plays to the strength of our rivals,” said Mercedes chief Toto Wolff. “We will need to be flawless to come out on top at this track.”

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.”