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Rosberg cautious of Red Bull threat in Japan after Friday practice

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Nico Rosberg remains wary of the threat posed by Red Bull at Suzuka following Friday’s Formula 1 practice running ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix.

Rosberg led both practice sessions ahead of teammate and drivers’ championship rival Lewis Hamilton as Mercedes dominated proceedings at Suzuka.

Red Bull’s leading driver in FP2 was Max Verstappen, who finished eight-tenths of a second adrift of Rosberg over one lap, but the German is wary of the threat the team may pose given it did not complete a time on the soft-compound tire.

“It’s been a case of finding my way today. It began with quite a lot of understeer and we had to work through the setup in order to find a better balance on the car,” Rosberg explained.

“In the afternoon, the medium tire didn’t seem as strong as the hard as we saw in Malaysia. However, on the soft tire we showed good one-lap pace, the balance felt good and the track was really exciting to drive.

“It looks like we’re ahead of the Ferraris, but it remains to be seen as to where we are compared to the Red Bulls.”

Following his agonizing retirement when leading the Malaysian Grand Prix last weekend, Hamilton felt grateful to have a trouble-free Friday despite trailing Hamilton in both sessions.

“It’s been a really good day with no problems on the car which is great. We managed to get plenty of laps in but there’s still some work to be done overnight in order to find more pace,” Hamilton said.

“That’s a work in progress and hopefully we’ll be going into Sunday in good shape. It’s great to be here in Japan and I’m excited to get out on track again for qualifying tomorrow.”

Qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix is live on NBCSN from 2am ET on Saturday.

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.”