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Giovinazzi continues for Sauber in China, possibly Bahrain

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Italian Antonio Giovinazzi will continue in Sauber F1 Team’s second car for this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix and possibly the Bahrain Grand Prix next week as well, as Pascal Wehrlein remains sidelined while he tries to get his physicality back in shape.

The team release said: “Pascal Wehrlein will again be replaced by Antonio Giovinazzi to ensure that the German will be back in the cockpit of the Sauber C36-Ferrari, in best physical shape, at the earliest possible opportunity – either the Bahrain Grand Prix or the Russian Grand Prix.”

Giovinazzi was called up to action on the Friday night of the Australian Grand Prix weekend after Wehrlein determined his fitness wasn’t on par to complete a full race distance at Albert Park. However, Giovinazzi didn’t actually see the team’s text to him until Saturday morning. He made his race weekend debut in FP3 and progressed quickly with learning the track and nearly outqualifying teammate Marcus Ericsson.

In the race, he brought the car home to a 12th place finish.

Today’s confirmation for China and with the short turnaround time to Bahrain will ensure Sauber has a plan either way.

“For me the most important is that I can train intensively to ensure a 100 percent performance from my side as soon as possible,” Wehrlein said in the team’s advance.

“I will then be well-prepared for my first complete Grand Prix weekend for the Sauber F1 Team. Hopefully this can be in Bahrain but, if not, then we will take the time it needs until Russia to make sure I am completely ready.”

Interestingly, this news came after Mercedes-Benz motorsport chief Toto Wolff said he was impressed by Wehrlein’s maturity to rule himself out of action for Melbourne.

Coverage of the Chinese Grand Prix weekend on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app online begins Thursday night.

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.”