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Haas to question F1 future if sport doesn’t become more competitive

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Gene Haas will consider the future of his eponymous Formula 1 team if steps are not made to make the sport more competitive and fix the “almost unsolvable” problem of how to cut the gap between teams.

Since Lotus won the 2013 Australian Grand Prix with Kimi Raikkonen, just three teams – Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull – have won every Grand Prix since, starting with round two of that season in Malaysia. The close-knit midfield teams have rarely had a chance to fight at the front of the pack, and podiums for other teams beyond those three have been sparse.

Following its takeover of F1 in January, Liberty Media has been tasked with finding ways to make the sport more competitive and give the midfielders more of a fighting chance instead of making up the numbers – something Haas is keen to see.

“They’ve very patiently listened to us and they’ve talked to all the teams, and they’re formulating a strategy that they’re going to release later this year,” Haas told NBCSN.

“We’re all anticipating how they’re going to solve that problem, because it sounds like it’s a problem that’s almost unsolvable.

“In last practice [on Friday at Monza], the first three cars were all within a second, and the next 10 cars were all within a second.

“There’s a big gap. There’s definitely a big racing gap between the front-runners and the team at the back.”

F1’s youngest team, Haas F1 Team has impressed since making its debut at the start of 2016, but has not finished a race any higher than fifth, the result coming in just its second grand prix.

A number of options to reduce costs and narrow the gap between teams throughout the field have been suggested, including spec parts or a budget cap.

While Haas doubts anything can be done to reduce the gap, he stressed the need for some kind of unpredictability in F1.

“If anything, my point of view is that it’s a gap we can’t reduce. With what our current resources are and what we know, it seems an impossible gap to reduce,” Haas said.

“I think some of it is that the top three teams are maybe quasi-manufacturers, and since they run the whole car and make the whole car, they understand it a lot better.

“So we’re always going to be at somewhat of a disadvantage to the manufacturers who understand the car better than we do.

“But I think there needs to be some kind of a randomness in the sport where even a team in the back has some possibility of winning once in a while.

“Not every race, but if you can never win in this sport, it’s really not going to be much of a sport.”

When asked if he was considering his team’s future in F1, Haas said: “Well we’re certainly committed to Formula 1.

“But if we never have a chance to win, I’d really have to question why we’re here.

“I think every team should have at least some possibility of winning a race once in a while, through a fuel strategy or some alternative.

“But the gap’s so big now that I just don’t see how we can possibly close it.”

Haas currently sits seventh in F1’s constructors’ championship on 35 points after 12 rounds, having already exceeded its score from 2016 thanks to contributions from drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen.

By comparison, Mercedes sits on top of the teams’ table on 392 points ahead of Ferrari on 348 and Red Bull on 199.

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.”