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F1: Charles Leclerc wins fourth consecutive pole in Russian GP qualifying

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For the first time since Sebastian Vettel in 2011, a non-Mercedes driver has won four consecutive pole positions in Formula One competition.

In Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session for the Russian Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc became the latest driver to win four-in-a-row by laying down a 1 minute, 31.628-second lap around the 18-Turn, 3.634-mile Sochi circuit in Q3 to put his Ferrari on the pole position for Sunday’s race.

The pole is the sixth of 2019 for the 21-year-old sophomore driver.

“The car felt amazing,” Leclerc said following his pole run. “It feels great to be back on pole, but the start is very important here – arguably more so than anywhere else.

“I just want to focus on the job tomorrow and it’s looking good at the moment.”

Lewis Hamilton qualified second, 0.402 seconds behind, while Leclerc’s teammate Sebastian Vettel qualified third.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas qualified fourth and fifth, respectfully.

Carlos Sainz qualified sixth for McLaren, while Nico Hulkenberg was the fastest of the Renault drivers, qualifying seventh.

Lando Norris, Romain Grosjean and Daniel Riccardo rounded out the top 10 qualifiers.

Alexander Albon brought out the lone red flag of the session during Q1 when he lost the rear in Turn 13, going rear-first into the tire barriers. Albon will start Sunday’s race from the 19th position.

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.”