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No regrets for Wolff over missing out on Verstappen

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Mercedes Formula 1 chief Toto Wolff says he has no regrets about failing to sign Max Verstappen to the German marque’s junior program in 2014.

Verstappen first broke onto the scene as a 16-year-old in the FIA European F3 series, making such an impression that Mercedes and Red Bull were quick to try and sign him up.

Mercedes was unable to offer Verstappen an F1 race seat for 2015, its two works drives being taken by Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

Red Bull could immediately slot Verstappen in at its junior team for the 2015 season, Toro Rosso, prompting the young Dutchman to opt for this path and make his F1 debut at the age of 17.

After just 23 races with Toro Rosso, Verstappen was promoted into a race seat with Red Bull, with whom he won his first race in Spain earlier this year to also become the youngest victor in F1 history.

In a wide-ranging interview with the official F1 website, Wolff said that as exceptional as Verstappen was, Mercedes simply could not accommodate him.

“He was an exceptional kid in karts,” Wolff said.

“Then he won in the Formula 3 championship against all odds with an inferior car Esteban Ocon was his opponent then – that says a lot.

“But yes, the real test is F1 – and now we see the result. But we simply had no availability for him, so Red Bull was his best option.”

When asked if he regretted missing out on Verstappen and not replacing one of his existing drivers, Wolff replied: “No. We are not disappointed with anything in the past.

“I was very conscious about him. I wanted to find him a place, but with Lewis and Nico we have the perfect driver pairing – so far we have won two constructors championships and it is looking good again – so there was the logical thing, to stay with those two.”

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.”