© Getty Images

Marko: Verstappen now F1’s most popular driver worldwide

2 Comments

Red Bull Formula 1 advisor Helmut Marko believes that Max Verstappen has become the series’ most popular driver worldwide as a result of his exciting on-track actions and honest comments.

Verstappen, 18, came under fire over the Belgian Grand Prix weekend following on-track clashes with Ferrari drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel.

Paddock consensus has been split on Verstappen. While some saw his moves as over-stepping the mark, others praised his brave on-track approach.

In an exclusive interview with the official F1 website, Marko hit back at Verstappen’s critics and compared him to a young Michael Schumacher.

“Nothing is justified,” Marko said of the criticism.

“Max is a different calibre. He has the traits of a future world champion and he is just doing what is necessary to get there.

“It obviously surprises some that this also involves overtaking and defending. If there had been something gravely wrong the stewards would have penalized him.

“It is a bit like when Michael Schumacher came in. I remember a race in Hockenheim when there was nearly a fistfight between him and Ayrton Senna – Senna the top dog at this time and Schumacher the new hopeful.”

Marko believes that Verstappen’s actions have gone down well with fans, who seek personalities such as that of the young Dutchman when following F1.

“We are lacking strong personalities lately,” Marko said.

“On top, there are drivers doing their last season so they are complaining about Max, about safety, about anything.

“With Max here is someone who is really young with a strong idea of what he wants, and he is not shy of trying to get it, of trying to be successful.

“And the reaction of the fans plays to his advantage: I would say he is probably now the most popular driver on the grid – worldwide.”

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.”