Raikkonen coy on Ferrari’s Suzuka chances despite beating Red Bull in qualifying

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Kimi Raikkonen remains coy about Ferrari’s chances in the Japanese Grand Prix despite leapfrogging both Red Bull’s in Saturday’s Formula 1 qualifying session at Suzuka.

Ferrari arrived in Japan trailing Red Bull by 46 points in the constructors’ championship as both vie for second place behind the dominant Mercedes team.

Red Bull scored a one-two finish last weekend in Malaysia as Daniel Ricciardo claimed his first race win in two years, while Ferrari left Sepang with just a fourth-place finish to its name courtesy of Raikkonen.

Ferrari enjoyed the edge in qualifying at Suzuka on Saturday, though, as Raikkonen and Vettel qualified third and fourth respectively, leaving the Red Bulls to settle for P5 and P6.

Despite the result, Raikkonen is refusing to read too much into it with regards to Ferrari’s battle against Red Bull, instead preferring to leave judgement until Sunday’s race.

“It’s only one day, one qualifying. Obviously we’re happy about it but you get zero points today,” Raikkonen told NBCSN.

“We have to do another good day tomorrow and obviously do our maximum to get the best out of it. What we’re going to get, we’ll see that tomorrow.”

Vettel qualified fourth, but will drop three places on the grid as a result of a grid penalty carried over from Malaysia where he made contact with Nico Rosberg and Verstappen at the first corner.

“I think I could have been a bit quicker for P3, but Kimi seemed to get some very good laps in Q3 and managed to be just ahead,” Vettel told NBCSN after the session.

“From a team point of view it’s been a really good day, with both cars ahead of the Red Bulls. I think it’s about time we had a clean session without any issues for both of us.

“Tomorrow will be very close. Obviously I’ll start a little bit further back, and we’ll see what we can do. The strategy might look a little bit different, we’re a little bit out of position, but it should be a close race anyway with Red Bull.”

The Japanese Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 12am 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.”