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Mark Webber tips Daniel Ricciardo for F1 championship challenge in 2017

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Mark Webber believes that Daniel Ricciardo could mount a challenge for the Formula 1 drivers’ championship in 2017.

Ricciardo finished the 2016 season third in the standings, taking one race win for Red Bull and recording more consecutive points finishes than any other driver.

The Australian now has four grand prix victories under his belt, and, with the right car, Webber is sure that Ricciardo could mount a title bid in 2017.

“Daniel was probably the most consistent driver in the field this year and he’s absolutely world class, in that top three drivers,” Webber told The Age.

“He’s in a position to go again next year and certainly vie for the championship if Red Bull can get the car together because Nico [Rosberg] is virtually impossible to replace in the short term at Mercedes.”

Rosberg’s shock retirement was announced just five days after he claimed his maiden F1 championship in Abu Dhabi.

Webber believes that the decision will leave Mercedes on the back foot for 2017 as it continues to search for a replacement.

“I’m really happy for [Rosberg]. Things just line up in your life and he’s decided his time is now,” Webber said.

“Nico and Lewis [Hamilton] drove each other to be better, but now they won’t have that all-star line-up. Lewis is brilliant and absolutely ruthless, but this will shake up the F1 market.”

Webber retired from motorsport at the end of 2016 after spending three years in the FIA World Endurance Championship with Porsche, having raced in F1 prior to that.

Webber said that he was pleased to have quit racing on his own terms instead of being forced to call time on his career.

“So many people in sport manage to get that timing right when their best days are behind them, and I wanted to find out where that slope started rather than roll down it,” Webber said.

“It was good to be weaned off slowly. I had the decision in my mind that my three-year deal with Porsche from 2014 to 2016 would be it, but I had ups and downs.

“Sometimes F1 years are worth two years because it’s so mentally draining, and I wanted to finish with a little bit in the tank.”

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.”