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F1: Mercedes faces ‘major wake-up call’ after Canadian GP, loss of points lead

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MONTREAL (AP) — Mercedes arrived at the Canadian Grand Prix without the correct tires or an expected engine upgrade and left Montreal trailing in the Formula One championship standings.

Ferrari returned to the top of the podium at the track named for Gilles Villeneuve for the first time since 2004, with Sebastian Vettel going from the pole to the checkered flag to finish six seconds ahead of Valtteri Bottas’ Mercedes on Sunday.

Erstwhile points leader Lewis Hamilton, who was aiming for a record-tying seventh victory in Montreal, struggled to finish fifth and fell one point behind Vettel in the standings.

“I’m the opposite of confident,” Mercedes executive director Toto Wolff said. “I think this is a major wake-up call for every member of the team. Everybody needs to assess how to improve performance. … Those marginal gains are going to make all the difference.”

Despite having the championship leader and the three-time defending Montreal champion, Mercedes leaves Canada second-guessing its strategy to bring fewer sets of the softest tires to the track, a move that Wolff conceded left Hamilton and Bottas at a disadvantage in qualifying. The team also was unable to deliver a reliable engine upgrade in time for the race.

Without it, Hamilton found himself losing power even up until the end. Adding to his problems was a cooling issue that required an early pit.

“From the start I was down on power and my engine was overheating. I couldn’t get the temperatures down, so I just thought it was going to fail,” he said. “Every single lap I was waiting for the power to just drop away and disappear, but it kept going.”

Vettel was never really challenged, picking up his third victory of the season and 25 points to erase Hamilton’s 14-point lead; the Briton salvaged 10 points with his worst result of the year. Bottas finished second for the fourth time in seven races.

“It was a tough day in the office today, but I’m just very grateful that I finished today’s race and score some points,” Hamilton said. “I’m sure in the next couple of days it will get more and more painful. But it could get a lot worse. I could have had a DNF (did not finish). I’m just grateful the engine made it.”

Hamilton said he would never doubt the team’s ability to fix its problems.

“That would be the first sign of weakness, and my mind is not weak,” he said. “I have complete confidence in my guys, and I’m putting all my energy toward them.”

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.”