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Sauber confirms Leclerc for F1 practice outings starting in Malaysia

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Ferrari junior and runaway Formula 2 championship leader Charles Leclerc will appear for Sauber in four Formula 1 practice sessions later this year, starting next week in Malaysia.

Leclerc, 19, won last year’s GP3 title and is currently 59 points clear in the F2 standings with four races remaining.

The Monegasque driver has been linked with a drive at Sauber for 2018 given its technical partnership with Ferrari, with confirmation of his practice program pointing towards a future race seat.

“The Sauber F1 Team is pleased to confirm that Charles Leclerc will be in the cockpit of the Sauber C36-Ferrari during four free practice sessions ahead of the upcoming 2017 Formula One Grand Prix,” a statement from Sauber reads.

“Leclerc, the current leader in this year’s F2 series, will be participating in FP1 sessions during the race weekends in Malaysia, US, Mexico and Brazil.

“At the Malaysian Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc will be driving the Sauber C36-Ferrari for the first time in FP1 on Friday at the Sepang International Circuit. Regular driver Marcus Ericsson will take over the car from FP2 onwards.”

Sauber is expected to part company with Mercedes youngster Pascal Wehrlein at the end of the season, with Leclerc set to take his seat.

Ericsson’s future is also unclear after another tough and point-less season with Sauber, although his links to the team’s owners may keep him on for a fourth year at Hinwil.

Should Ericsson lose his seat, Leclerc’s fellow Ferrari junior Antonio Giovinazzi is the favorite to make the step up, having deputized for Wehrlein in Australia and China earlier this year.

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.”