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F1: Ricciardo fastest in first Hungarian GP practice, Vettel 2nd

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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo was fastest in the first practice for the Hungarian Grand Prix on Friday.

The narrow Hungaroring track is among the most difficult to overtake on in Formula One, and considered more favorable to cars with a strong downforce like Red Bull and Ferrari.

Ricciardo was followed by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel then his Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen in warm and sunny conditions.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was fourth, then Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, who struggled to find pace on a track not best suited to their cars.

Hamilton, who won last weekend’s German GP from 14th place on the grid, briefly lost control of his car on Turn 5 and also complained of his tires.

Verstappen also spun, while Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg aborted his run before the end of practice because of engine problems.

Ferrari’s team garage and motorhome flew its flag at half-mast and team members wore black armbands, after the death of its former president Sergio Marchionne. Vettel and Raikkonen also had black bands attached to their cars.

Marchionne, who was 66, died on Wednesday after complications from surgery in Zurich.

Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolf paid a personal tribute.

“We as well are very shocked by events. He was a friend and ally, a great rival and a competitor and will be dearly missed,” Wolf said. “Sergio was a bigger personality than life. In the meetings and in the strategy groups, and in the negotiations with Formula One and the FIA, (he) had the most powerful voice. His shoes are impossible to fill. … There was only one Sergio Marchionne.”

After a second practice later Friday, there is a third practice and qualifying on Saturday.

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.”