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Renault leapfrogs Toro Rosso for P6 in constructors’ at season finale

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Renault arguably emerged as the biggest winner from Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after leapfrogging Toro Rosso in the final Formula 1 constructors’ standings, securing an uplift in prize money in the process for sixth place.

Renault entered the final race of the year trailing Toro Rosso by four points in the constructors’ standings, with Hulkenberg qualifying seventh on Saturday.

The German was hit with a five-second time penalty for cutting a corner in order to stay ahead of Sergio Perez on the opening lap, but was able to pull clear to make up for it through the opening stint.

Despite a slow pit stop, Hulkenberg held position after serving the penalty and finished six seconds clear of Perez at the checkered flag, bagging eight points for Renault.

With Toro Rosso failing to score after Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly took P15 and P16 respectively, Hulkenberg’s points haul was enough to lift Renault up to sixth in the final standings, clinching the additional prize money in the process.

“I knew that I had the five-second gap over Checo,” Hulkenberg told NBCSN. “I knew that. I made sure in the first stint that I had that.

“When I started to realize the pit stop was a bit longer and that I had some trouble on the rear-left, the rear-right, I was starting to get a bit nervous and starting to sweat.

“When you go down and out of the pit lane out of that tunnel, there is very little grip. It’s just a balancing act. That was a bit of a thriller.

“It was a very interesting first lap, very interesting couple of laps after the stop when I had to get by the Haas which is super-fast on the straight. And obviously I had Checo right behind me waiting to take advantage. But we managed to come out on top.

“Very decent end to the season, decent final result. That sixth position in the constructors, it’s not amazing but it’s good for us. It’s good to have that in our pocket now. I’m sure everyone is pleased and happy about that.”

Asked if the result would also offer a boost to Renault in its second season back in F1 as a constructor, Hulkenberg said: “Yeah it is. It is good to finish with a strong result. It helps everybody.

“We had a good package all of the second season. We just had so many issues as you know. We lost so many results and so many points along the way.

“It’s just about recovering some of what we lost, finishing on a positive note and going into the winter with our chins up.”

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.”