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Engine issue leaves Verstappen at the back, praying for rain in China

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Max Verstappen was left frustrated after a shock exit in the first stage of Formula 1 qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix due to an engine issue that left him down on power.

Verstappen was a surprise drop-out in Q1 as he finished a lowly 19th, having endured a difficult session that was made shorter when he was called to the weighbridge early on.

A power issue soon arose on his Renault engine, forcing the Red Bull driver to pit before heading back out and trying to resolve the issue by changing engine modes regularly on his flying laps.

Despite his best efforts, Verstappen failed to make it through, qualifying 19th overall and matching the slow-going McLaren’s for straight-line speed due to the engine issue.

“There was something misfiring in the engine which meant we were down on power, I tried to do a lap that could at least get me through to Q2 but the issue just wouldn’t let me,” Verstappen explained.

“The guys will investigate this evening and I’m confident they can resolve it for the race. It is of course very unfortunate but these things happen and we need to move on.”

Rain is forecast for Sunday’s race in China, with Verstappen welcoming a wet race as he bids to charge back up the field.

“A bit of rain tomorrow will definitely help us but I think even in the wet it will be tough to challenge Ferrari and Mercedes,” Verstappen said.

“We need to concentrate on what we have and do the best we can. I will go home tonight, get some good rest and sleep, then come to the track ready to attack on what will hopefully be a wet track.

“If it is dry tomorrow you lose too much time starting from where I am on the grid. We will see, some good overtakes and exciting racing is what I’m hoping for.”

One positive for Verstappen is that he will rise two places on the grid to 17th after Romain Grosjean and Jolyon Palmer were both hit with grid penalties, causing them to fall to the last row.

The Chinese Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 1am ET on Sunday.

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.”