Vettel revels in Bahrain win, makes best start for Ferrari driver since Schumacher

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Sebastian Vettel reveled in his fifth Formula 1 victory for Scuderia Ferrari in Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix, saying the SF70H was “a pleasure” to drive under the lights at Sakhir.

Vettel charged from third place on the grid to beat the Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, with Ferrari’s superior race pace lifting the German to his second win of the year.

“Really great day. Don’t know what to say,” Vettel said on the podium. “It was, the last half of the in-lap when all the fireworks were there and the track was lit up, I just love what I do. I didn’t find any words. It was really great.

“Team effort today, right off the start I could feel that we’re quick, we can have a word. Really tried to put Valtteri under pressure. He didn’t do any mistakes, it was difficult down the straights to get near him, but then we obviously went for the undercut and did the early pit stop, worked fantastic, very good job.”

Vettel feared that the advantage of pitting early and attempting the undercut was lost when the safety car was deployed just three laps later following a crash between Carlos Sainz Jr. and Lance Stroll, handing the Mercedes drivers a chance to take a free stop.

However, an error on one of Bottas’ tires allowed Vettel to emerge ahead of the Finn on-track, moving into a net lead that he would retain through the race on cycle.

“When the safety car came initially I was like ‘not again!’,” Vettel said, having lost the chance to win in China due to a mistimed caution.

“I think I was lucky because the others were just close to the pit lane so they couldn’t really benefit, let’s say. I don’t know. I was a bit surprised when I came out ahead of all of them because with the safety car I thought I might have lost the advantage.

“But after that it was good, the car was really amazing to drive. I had a good feeling yesterday so for many laps I felt it worked well. It was just a pleasure. I could control the pace at the end.”

With two wins and one second-place finish in the opening three races of the year, Vettel has made the strongest start to a season by a Ferrari driver since Michael Schumacher in 2004. Schumacher won each of the first three races en route to a record-breaking title success.

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.”