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Bottas edges Hamilton to lead second Italian GP practice

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Valtteri Bottas threw his hat into the ring as a contender for Italian Grand Prix victory by edging out Mercedes Formula 1 teammate Lewis Hamilton at the top of the timesheets in second practice at Monza.

After trailing Hamilton by four-tenths of a second in FP1 on Friday morning, Bottas bounced back by getting the upper-hand over Mercedes’ chief title chaser, recording a best lap of 1:21.406 to lead FP2.

Bottas finished 0.056 seconds clear at the head of the field, leading Mercedes to another one-two finish and continuing its record of having led every session at Monza in the V6 turbo era, starting in 2014.

F1 drivers’ championship leader Sebastian Vettel was able to draw Ferrari closer to Mercedes after lagging over a second behind in FP1, finishing just a tenth off the pace in third place. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen closely followed in P4.

Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo took P5 and P6 for the second successive session, with both focusing on their race programs in FP2 given their pending grid penalties.

McLaren proved to be a surprise package in second practice as Stoffel Vandoorne and Fernando Alonso took P7 and P8 respectively despite their ongoing engine troubles with Honda. The pair were seen engaging in some tow practice, with Vandoorne set to lead its charge in qualifying given Alonso’s penalty.

Esteban Ocon took P9 for Force India, while Felipe Massa completed the top 10 for Williams, leading the British team as rookie teammate Lance Stroll suffered a strange spin at Ascari that left him pointing in the wrong direction.

Carlos Sainz Jr. saw his weekend go from bad to worse, suffering a possible engine issue after receiving a grid penalty earlier in the day that forced him to park up with plumes of smoke escaping from the rear of his Toro Rosso.

Haas’ Kevin Magnussen also had a session to forget, breaking the suspension on his car after running wide over the kerb at the exit of the second Lesmo.

Running at Monza continues with FP3 at 5am ET on Saturday, followed by qualifying at 8am.

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.”