Lewis Hamilton fastest in opening Abu Dhabi F1 practice

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Lewis Hamilton sent out an early warning shot to Formula 1 championship rival Nico Rosberg ahead of their title showdown by leading opening practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Hamilton enters the final race of the season trailing Rosberg by 12 points in the standings, meaning the odds are stacked against the Briton in his chase for a fourth world championship. A top-three finish will be enough to clinch Rosberg a maiden crown.

Hamilton calmed any early nerves he may have had heading into the weekend by topping first practice in Abu Dhabi, posting a fastest lap time of 1:42.869 at the Yas Marina Circuit.

Hamilton led from Rosberg early on, but was able to improve inside the final 30 minutes to eventually enjoy an advantage of 0.374 seconds over his teammate.

Despite being able to wrap up a one-two finish for Mercedes, Rosberg only narrowly edged out Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in P3, again suggesting that the Dutchman has the capability to play championship spoiler on Sunday.

Daniel Ricciardo backed up Verstappen’s pace in the second Red Bull, finishing fourth, while Sebastian Vettel finished over six-tenths of a second further back in P5 for Ferrari.

Sergio Perez led Force India’s charge in sixth, finishing ahead of Kimi Raikkonen. Carlos Sainz Jr. and Felipe Massa followed in eighth and ninth, as Marcus Ericsson sprung a surprise by finishing 10th for Sauber.

The session was marked with a couple of incidents, the most notable involving Daniil Kvyat, who appeared to suffer a tire failure on his Toro Rosso in the first 30 minutes. Its severity meant that the Russian could not head back out in FP1.

Jenson Button and Romain Grosjean also hit trouble during the session, limiting both of their running, while Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Ocon gave up their seats to reserve drivers Alfonso Celis Jr. and Jordan King at Force India and Manor respectively.

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.”