Nico Rosberg snatches pole position in Hungarian GP qualifying epic

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Nico Rosberg snatched pole position for the Hungarian Grand Prix away in dramatic fashion at the end of a mammoth qualifying session at the Hungaroring, edging out Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton.

The start of qualifying was delayed after heavy rain hit the area following final practice, drenching the track.

The safety car was sent out at regular intervals to monitor conditions before the track was deemed dry enough after a 20-minute wait, although just five minutes of running was possible before more rain resulted in another red flag.

Once the track had dried and the sun was out, running was able to resume, only for on-track incidents to result in a further three red flags in Q1 alone.

Q2 and Q3 proved to be less eventful affairs, the crescendo being a battle between Hamilton and Rosberg once again. Hamilton drew first blood in Q3, going three-tenths of a second faster than Rosberg with his first lap, only for the German to close to within a tenth before pitting for a fresh set to super-soft tires.

Hamilton was forced to back off on his final qualifying lap after a spin for Fernando Alonso, but Rosberg dodged the yellow flags, giving him the chance to improve through the final sector.

Rosberg picked up the mantle emphatically, going 0.143 seconds faster than Hamilton to take a shock pole position, his second in Hungary.

Hamilton was left lamenting more bad luck in second place, having gone four-tenths faster than Rosberg in the first sector before his lap was ruined.

Red Bull locked out the second row, Daniel Ricciardo leading from Max Verstappen, while Sebastian Vettel finished down in fifth as the sole Ferrari to make it through to the top 10.

Carlos Sainz Jr. matched his best qualifying of the season in P6 ahead of the McLaren duo of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, both of whom benefitted from the wet conditions to make it through to Q3. Nico Hulkenberg and Valtteri Bottas rounded out the top 10, both having been caught out by the yellow flag.

Haas’ hopes of making Q3 for the first time in F1 were dashed in a crazy 60-second period at the end of Q2 as drivers switched to slick tires. Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez both sat well inside the top 10 after their final laps, only for a flurry of improvements to leave them P11 and P15 on the grid.

Daniil Kvyat, Sergio Perez and Felipe Nasr also lost out, finishing 12th, 13th and 16th respectively, but Kimi Raikkonen was arguably the biggest loser. As the first man to take the checkered flag, Raikkonen sat P1. Less than a minute later, he was P14.

Renault’s hopes of building on its top-10 finish in FP3 were dashed as a late red flag in Q1 denied Jolyon Palmer and Kevin Magnussen the chance to make it through to Q2. Palmer finished 17th, two places ahead of Magnussen as the French team’s tough start to the year continued.

Felipe Massa and Marcus Ericsson were both casualties of the conditions in Q1, crashing out in separate incidents. Ericsson caused the second red flag after sliding off-track, while Massa made the switch to intermediate tires too early, resulting in a crash at Turn 4 that ended his qualifying. Massa and Ericsson will start 18th and 20th respectively.

Manor was unable to capitalize on the wet conditions in Q1 as Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto locked out the back row of the grid. Haryanto was responsible for the fourth and final red flag in Q1, his crash bringing the session to an early end.

The Hungarian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from 7am 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.”