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F1: Charles Leclerc wins Austrian GP pole, Hamilton to start fifth after penalty

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Charles Leclerc won the pole position for the Austrian Grand Prix Saturday afternoon, setting a new track record with an elapsed time of 1 minute, 3.003 seconds around the 2.683-mile Red Bull Ring circuit.

“It’s a big pleasure to drive this car on the limit,” Leclerc said following qualifying.

“I’m very happy to bring pole position back home. Tomorrow will be very difficult physically and for the car.”

Lewis Hamilton initially qualified second for Sunday’s Grand Prix, with a lap of 1 minute, 3.818 seconds. However, the defending World Champion received three-place grid penalty from race officials after appearing to block Kimi Raikkonen heading into Turn 3 of the 8-Turn circuit during Q1.

The incident drew anger from Raikkonen, with replays showing the Alfa Romeo driver flashing his middle finger at Hamilton.

“Hamilton totally blocked me,” Raikkonen complained to his team over the radio.

Hamilton’s penatlty bumps Max Verstappen up to the second position in Red Bull’s home race after initially qualifying third.

Valtteri Bottas will now start Sunday’s Grand Prix from the third position after qualifying fourth.

Lando Norris now starts fifth after qualifying sixth thanks to Hamilton’s penalty as well as a penalty issued to Kevin Magnuessen.

The Haas driver orignally qualified fifth, but was issued a five-place grid penalty for changing his gearbox.

Raikkonen, Antonio Giovinazzi, Pierre Gasly and Sebastian Vettel will all move up one position as well, and will start Sunday’s race from sixth through ninth after qualifying seventh through tenth.

Vettel failed to run a single lap in Q3 due to a power unit issue.

Full qualifying results and times are below:

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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.”