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Zak Brown: Ron Dennis played role in McLaren F1 recruitment

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Newly-appointed McLaren executive director Zak Brown says that outgoing chairman CEO Ron Dennis played an important role in recruiting him for the British marque.

McLaren announced last week that Dennis would be leaving the team after 35 years at the helm, with the Briton claiming he had been removed by his fellow shareholders on “spurious” grounds.

McLaren confirmed six days later that Brown had joined as an executive director, with the American businessman making his first appearance in the Formula 1 paddock with the team in Abu Dhabi.

Despite only arriving at the team once Dennis’ departure had been confirmed, Brown revealed in an interview with the official F1 website that he had been in talks about joining McLaren for a number of months.

“I have a great relationship with Ron. Ron set out recruiting me,” Brown said.

“Ron and I started serious talks in the middle of the year, so I wouldn’t be sitting where I am without Ron. He is very much in my mind. I have spoken to him before I came to Abu Dhabi.

“My relationship with Ron is unchanged.”

When asked if Dennis hoped to retain control over McLaren through Brown, the American replied: “I don’t know what he hopes. This is a question for Ron to answer.

“All I can say is that he told me before I flew out to Abu Dhabi that it is a very good thing that I have joined.”

McLaren has struggled to find much success on-track in recent years, not winning a race since the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix and failing to score a podium since Australia 2014.

While Brown is refusing to make any firm predictions, he is confident that the team can be stronger both on- and off-track in a year’s time.

“I would like to see more partners on the race car [in a year],” Brown said.

“I want to see more on-track success, probably having a view of the podium.

“But I don’t want to get caught making predictions. What I can say: ‘more’ is the route to go!”

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.”