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F1: Verstappen from fast to furious in Mexico, Ricciardo questions racing

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MEXICO CITY (AP) Red Bull’s Max Verstappen went from fast to furious to winner. Daniel Ricciardo went from pole position to yet another disaster as engine failure doomed his car yet again.

The Mexican Grand Prix was a wild ride for Red Bull.

The team came to the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez expecting to challenge Mercedes and Ferrari for the win in the high altitude of Mexico City.

The 21-year-old Verstappen had dominated practice and looked set to become the youngest driver in Formula One history to win pole position until Ricciardo snatched it away on his final lap. Infuriated, Verstappen returned to the track determined to get the win and defend his 2017 race victory.

“Amazing,” said Verstappen. “To be honest with you, I didn’t sleep very well last night.”

The Dutch driver has two wins this season and five podium finishes in the last seven races. It’s strong run in a season that began with mistakes that cost him potential victories and drew a reprimand for dangerous driving moves.

He slammed the door on the victory in Mexico at the start. A furious jump off the line beat Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton to the first corner, and Verstappen was off and running toward an easy race for his fifth career victory.

Lewis Hamilton secured his fifth career championship with a fourth-place finish. He’d said before the race he likely couldn’t beat the Red Bulls.

A poor start and another round of engine failure beat Ricciardo, who has endured a frustrating season. Engine failure has killed his car in six of the last 11 races with two left on the season in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.

Race day began with such promise for Ricciardo.

Red Bull’s 1-2 start was their first front-row lockout since the start of the hybrid engine era in 2014. Ricciardo’s brilliant qualifying lap earned his third career pole position and the first since his victory in Monaco.

But he got left behind at the starting line and quickly dropped to third. He was in a furious fight to hold off Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel for second until smoke billowed from the back of his car with nine laps to go and he surrendered.

Ricciardo is leaving Red Bull’s Renault engines for the Renault team in 2019. Red Bull will be switching to Honda engines. Pierre Gasly will be taking Ricciardo’s place in a promotion from Red Bull’s junior team Toro Rosso.

“This car’s cursed,” Ricciardo said. “There’s two more races. I honestly don’t see the point of coming.”

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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.”