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Verstappen unchanged on view over Austin penalty, but regrets comments

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Max Verstappen has not changed his view on the penalty that denied him a podium finish in last weekend’s United States Grand Prix, but admitted on Thursday he regretted his choice of words in criticizing one of the Formula 1 race stewards.

Verstappen charged from 16th on the grid to cross the line third at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas on Sunday, having completed the fightback with a last-lap pass on Kimi Raikkonen.

However, the overtake was immediately scrutinized by the stewards at COTA, who deemed Verstappen to have cut part of a corner by riding over the kerb, and handed him a five-second time penalty.

Verstappen made his anger over the penalty clear after the race, telling British TV that it was “one idiot steward” who always targeted him, thought to be Garry Connelly, who has previously sanctioned the Red Bull driver.

Speaking ahead of this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix, Verstappen stressed his view on the penalty had not changed, but admitted he was wrong to use the words he did.

“I think after a race the emotions run high, especially when you’ve been taken off a podium which I think I deserved,” Verstappen said.

“I think the punishment was not correct because everybody was running off the track in Turn 19, 8 and 9, even in Turn 6 when you were behind someone you were cutting the inside – a lot of cars were doing it.

“Also the fans I think were loving it, it was a great move and then they tell you that you’re gaining an advantage while overtaking someone. If I was really gaining an advantage I would do it every single lap, which you are not, so I don’t think it was gaining an advantage.

“Like I said, a lot of other people did it as well, they were cutting the inside of the corners and then I am the only one who was getting penalized, which I think is of course not correct.

“I could have used different words, for sure. But like I also said I was angry at that time because I think it was not correct and I’ve already said all the reasons why I think it was not correct.

“So you also have to understand a bit my point of it, but of course the words were not correct. I can’t change that right now and it was not meant for anyone.

“I was not trying to offend anyone, otherwise I would have named them by name if I wanted to offend someone.”

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.”