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Formula One Team Haas gains on Renault in Japan

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Formula One Team Haas comes home to America three points closer to their closest constructors’ rival courtesy of Romain Grosjean’s eighth-place finish in the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka. Team Haas will enter the United States Grand Prix October 21 eight points behind Renault.

Kevin Magnussen was unable to contribute any points after a flat left rear tire damaged his car at the start of the race and forced him to retire in last place.

This was the fifth time this season that Grosjean finished in the points.

Grosjean believed his finish might have been better if not for some technical difficulties, one of which caused him to misjudge the distance between himself and Sergio Perez and meant the difference of one spot at the finish. A seventh-place finish would have netted two more points.

“We need to analyze what happened with the Virtual Safety Car restart,” Grosjean said in a press release after the race. “I was right on my delta time and Perez, when the gap was 2.4 seconds before, overtook me straight away. We need to check and see if there is not a problem in the system there. I thought I had done the job on my side. We did our best. We had a few technical issues on the car, which didn’t make our life easy. I think without those, we clearly had the pace to be in front of all those guys. Onto the next one.”

MORE: F1 Team Haas hopes to return to America fourth in constructors’ standings

Magnussen’s race ended on Lap 8. Racing against Sauber’s Charles Leclerc, he was tagged in the left rear, causing damage to his tire that ultimately tore up the suspension.

“I passed Charles around the outside of 130R, then through the last chicane he kept close and slipstreamed down the main straight,” Magnussen said. “I went to the right, I think he followed for a bit and then went back to the left and clipped my left rear tire, causing the puncture. It’s unfortunate, but that’s what happens sometimes. The tire delaminated and ripped all the floor. It damaged the rear wing, the brake ducts, etc., so we had to retire.”

Renault was able to ameliorate the damage by earning one point. Carlos Sainz Jr. finished 10th – the first driver one lap off the pace.

“Not the best of our days,” team principal Guenther Steiner said. “The incident with Kevin, where Leclerc ran straight into him, took him out of the race, so we were one car down. Grosjean had a few issues with the car, with the telemetry, and with the handling of it. The car was pulling on the straights. At one point we thought he had a puncture, but luckily we didn’t. Then we had the incident with Perez overtaking us at the Virtual Safety Car, which we still need to look into. The good side is we closed the gap to Renault by three points, and I hope we make the rest up in the next four races.”

Lewis Hamilton won the Japanese Grand Prix by nearly 13 seconds after leading all 53 laps. Valtteri Bottas gave Mercedes a 1-2 finish in second.

Penske won’t discuss if Castroneves returns to Indy in 2020

Bruce Martin Photo
Bruce Martin Photo
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INDIANAPOLIS – NBC Sports.com asked Indianapolis 500 winning team owner Roger Penske if three-time Indy winner Helio Castroneves would return to the team in 2020?

Penske immediately brushed off the question.

“We’re not going to talk about that right now,” Penske told NBC Sports.com. “I’m just not going to talk about it. We’re going to have a meeting about it before we decide, but I’m not going to talk about that right now.

“Simon won the race and that is what I’m focused on right now.”

Simon Pagenaud, gave Penske a record-extending 18thIndy 500 win on Sunday. Penske confirmed that Pagenaud will be back with the team in 2020 after he scored his first win in Sunday’s 103rdIndianapolis 500.

Castroneves was an NTT IndyCar Series regular at Team Penske from 2000 until the 2017 season. After that, Castroneves was shifted over to the team’s Acura IMSA Sports Car program, but the three-time Indy 500 winner was given a ride at both races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway the past two years.

The popular driver from Brazil is trying to join AJ Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as four-time Indy 500 winners.

But the whispers in Gasoline Alley indicate his future with Team Penske at Indy remain uncertain.

“I’ve heard the rumors, too,” Castroneves told NBC Sports.com on pit lane after his disappointing finish in the Indy 500. “I will definitely give it a good, hard think about coming back in 2020. I want to be the rest of the season, here.”

But, will Castroneves run the Indy 500 again?

“Who knows?” Castroneves told NBC Sports.com. “Let’s see what happens.”

Castroneves’s bid for a fourth Indianapolis 500 was derailed in a pit road incident after his first pit stop when he ran into James Davison’s Chevrolet on the team’s first pit stop on Lap 30.

The front wing of Castroneves’s Chevrolet was damaged and INDYCAR officials gave him a “Drive Through” penalty for “Avoidable Contact.” Castroneves would ultimate drop three laps down but finished one lap down in 18thplace.

Castroneves explained what happened to him earlier in the race and how it affected the rest of his Indy 500.

“The accident that happened in the pits hurt us for sure,” Castroneves explained. “We had a problem with the fuel mapping, and I couldn’t go over 200 miles an hour for four or five laps. We lost 35 seconds. There was a bug in the system.

“Then, we went back out and that was it. I wasn’t able to recoup after that. I was excited. The car was very, very good entering the race.”

Castroneves spoke with second-place finisher Alexander Rossi, who was furious with the driver from Brazil earlier in the race for not moving out of the way, even though he was three laps down at the time.

The two drivers hugged, and Castroneves walked back up pit lane.

“I did what the team told me to do, and they told me to go as fast as I could,” Castroneves explained after talking to Rossi. “It’s racing and everybody is upset they didn’t win.”

Castroneves hopes his walk up pit lane is not the final time as an Indy 500 competitor.

But it could be.

“I hope I can come back next year,” Castroneves said. “I’m really upset as a competitor, but extremely happy for Team Penske and for Simon Pagenaud for winning the race.

“The good news is I go back to the Acura sports car, but I will be dreaming about coming back here again.”