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Hamilton: Ferrari ‘bluffing’, downplaying true pace in F1 testing

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Mercedes Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton believes that Ferrari is “bluffing” and downplaying its true pace through pre-season testing in Barcelona.

Mercedes enters 2017 chasing a fourth straight championship double, having claimed both the drivers’ and constructors’ titles every year since 2014.

The German marque remains the favorite to lead the pack once again this year, but appears to be facing a challenge from Ferrari judging by the laps in pre-season testing.

Sebastian Vettel posted the fastest overall time of the winter in Barcelona on Thursday, and even backed off during his best lap, suggesting Ferrari has more time in its pocket.

While Hamilton also appeared to hide his true pace on Thursday en route to P2 on the timesheets, the Briton called out Ferrari and once again said it could be ahead of Mercedes in the pecking order.

“I think Ferrari are bluffing and that they are a lot quicker than they are showing,” Hamilton said.

“They’re very close to us. It’s difficult right now to say exactly who is quicker.

“But they are very close, if not faster. Whatever the case, I can’t wait to go out and compete.”

Hamilton completed 52 laps in the Mercedes W08 EQ Power+ on Thursday and posted a time three-tenths off Vettel’s effort, and was pleased to complete some low fuel running.

“It was good to get some laps in this morning with slightly lower fuel. We worked on balance and made quite a few changes,” Hamilton said.

“I learned a lot about the car before handing over to Valtteri. We were trying to simulate something a bit more like qualifying and the car felt good on lower fuel.

“It’s great to feel it come together.”

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

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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.”