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Marchionne: Giovinazzi ‘has the potential’ to be a Ferrari F1 driver

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Ferrari chairman and CEO Sergio Marchionne believes that junior driver Antonio Giovinazzi “has the potential” to drive for the Scuderia in Formula 1 one day, but remained coy about putting him in a seat in the near future.

Giovinazzi secured a third driver role with Ferrari for 2017 after finishing second in last year’s GP2 Series, and was subbed in to replace the injured Pascal Wehrlein at Sauber for the opening two rounds of the season.

The Italian put in an impressive display over the Australian Grand Prix weekend on debut, almost reaching Q2, but suffered a crash in qualifying in China.

Along with congratulating lead Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel on his victory in Australia two weeks ago, Marchionne also paid tribute to Giovinazzi in his statement after the race for his debut display.

With Kimi Raikkonen due to be out of contract at the end of the year, Giovinazzi has been linked as a possible outsider for a Ferrari F1 seat in 2018, with the Italian marque having a history for hiring home-grown drivers.

Speaking to reporters ahead of Sunday’s race in China, Marchionne said he didn’t think Giovinazzi would be ready for a seat with Ferrari in 2018, but thinks he has what it takes to race for the team in the future.

“I don’t know about that,” Marchionne said when asked if Giovinazzi would be ready for a Ferrari seat next year.

“I think he certainly has the potential to be a Ferrari driver. Not withstanding what happened yesterday [in qualifying], he’s a great driver.

“He’s got great instincts. We need to see him develop.”

Giovinazzi suffered another crash during Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix, marking a disappointing end to his second weekend in F1.

“I want to apologize again to the team,” Giovinazzi said. “They did a great job to get the car ready for the race. It was a shame that I crashed again today.

“A learning lesson – I just want to forget this weekend quickly.”

While Giovinazzi has not yet been confirmed as replacing Wehrlein for this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, it is thought unlikely that the German will have regained full fitness in time for the race, making a third start likely for the Ferrari youngster.

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.”