© Getty Images

Rosberg quickest in opening Italian GP practice at Monza

Leave a comment

Nico Rosberg made a flying start to the Italian Grand Prix weekend by topping the opening practice session at Monza on Friday morning.

After cutting the gap to Mercedes teammate and title rival Lewis Hamilton in the drivers’ standings down to nine points with victory in Belgium last weekend, Rosberg is bidding to regain the championship lead at Monza.

The German made an impressive start on Friday, posting a fastest lap of 1:22.959 to finish two-tenths of a second clear of Hamilton at the top of the timesheets.

Hamilton had been the leading driver after completing a run on the super-soft tire, only for Rosberg to complete a light fuel run on softs to move ahead.

Armed with an updated power unit for Monza, Ferrari finished third and fourth in the session with Kimi Raikkonen beating teammate Sebastian Vettel.

Sergio Perez finished FP1 fifth for Force India ahead of Romain Grosjean, whose Haas car is also fitted with the power unit upgrades supplied by Ferrari. Teammate Esteban Gutierrez also reached the top 10, finishing ninth.

Valtteri Bottas was seventh-fastest for Williams ahead of Max Verstappen, while Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top 10 for Red Bull behind Gutierrez.

Alfonso Celis Jr. enjoyed a solid run-out for Force India as his development program continued, finishing 12th, while Kevin Magnussen returned to the wheel of his Renault following a hefty shunt at Spa last weekend.

FP1 also saw the ‘Halo’ enjoy further tests, this time fitted to Jenson Button’s McLaren and the Force India of Perez.

Second practice from Monza is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 8am ET on Friday.

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
Leave a comment

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.”