FIA Formula 2

Charles Leclerc takes stunning Bahrain F2 win after charge from 14th

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Charles Leclerc delivered a performance to remember in Sunday’s FIA Formula 2 sprint race at the Bahrain International Circuit, rolling the dice with a strategy that saw him charge from 14th to victory late on.

2016 GP3 champion and Ferrari junior Leclerc finished the first race of F2’s new era on Saturday in third place, securing P5 on the grid for Sunday’s sprint event.

Leclerc managed to fight his way into the lead with 14 laps to go, building up an advantage over the chasing pack before coming in to change tires despite it not being mandatory in the sprint race.

With the majority of the pack looking to complete the race without a stop and having to manage their tires, Leclerc found himself with a significant pace advantage in the final nine laps, lapping as much as four seconds per lap faster than his rivals.

The Monegasque racer picked his way up the order before passing Oliver Rowland and Luca Ghiotto on the final lap to complete a remarkable charge back from 14th place.

Ghiotto was left to settle for second ahead of Rowland, with the top three being covered by just 2.8 seconds at the checkered flag.

Nicholas Latifi bounced back from a tough race on Saturday to finish fourth for DAMS ahead of Jordan King and McLaren junior Nyck de Vries, with Alexander Albon finishing seventh. Saturday winner Artem Markelov tried replicating Leclerc’s strategy, but could only recover to eighth for Russian Time.

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.”