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Robert Kubica confident he can make full F1 return if given chance

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Robert Kubica was second-to-last, 19th out of 20. And smiling.

He drove in the first practice for the Spanish Grand Prix on Friday, his first official Formula One session since he almost lost his right hand in a rally crash in 2011.

The reserve and development driver for Williams showed, at least to himself, he has what it takes to make a full return to the series.

Now he just wants another chance.

“I know my value. I don’t have to look at lap times,” Kubica said. “I know that if I would have a chance to drive the car every week like permanent race drivers, there is even more room to improve. I have seen it now that, in the end, whatever is missing is only because I’m doing it every two months, if something is missing.”

Williams struggled with its car at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Kubica was 19th and teammate Lance Stroll 20th and last. Sergei Sirotkin returned to the car in the afternoon session, but also couldn’t match Kubica’s time.

“In the end it’s difficult to say that it was enjoyable because our car balance was very bad and it was very difficult to drive,” Kubica said. “But I’m satisfied with the session and with how I reacted to difficult conditions. It sounds strange that you can be happy with P19, but actually I’m happy.”

The 33-year-old Kubica said driving was not as emotional as he expected, which “means that it’s becoming more natural” after a long time out of the series. His 76th and last grand prix was the 2010 season finale.

“I was more emotional last year when I was jumping for the first time in the car,” the Polish driver said. “Once you crack on the engine and you leave the garage … my job is always the same. It’s to deliver good feedback and try to get all the pace as soon as possible.”

Kubica participated in preseason testing with Williams this year. He will be back in the car on Wednesday for another test session in Barcelona, and again in practice in Austria and Abu Dhabi.

“I miss competition. But for me competition is not (a practice session) or testing, competition is being on the grid on Sunday. I miss it, but when you are away for a long time you get used to it also. I’m more concentrated on my work, on the opportunity I have. I don’t look at it like, `I should be there.’ I am happy with what I’m achieving.”

The ultimate goal remains the same, though, which is to find a full-time ride.

“If I wouldn’t try to do it, I wouldn’t be here. I appreciate the opportunity (with Williams), it gives me the opportunity to live my passion. It’s not only about driving, but working with the team, trying to understand Formula One from a different perspective.”

Kubica earned 12 podium finishes from 2006-10 and was considered among F1’s brightest talents.

He returned to rallying in 2013 and competed in endurance championships. Despite limited motion in his right hand, he’s adapted, and tested with Renault then Williams last year.

“I have been in (a) school where they give you a bird and you have to hold it (in a way) that it doesn’t fly away, but you cannot hold it too much that it will get scared. And this is the way you have to hold a steering wheel,” Kubica said. “You just have to use what is enough. And probably the way I drive it, it’s enough (the way) I’m doing it. Otherwise I would not be here and otherwise I would not have this opportunity.”

 

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.”