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Vettel grabs pole at Japanese GP

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SUZUKA, Japan – Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel grabbed pole position at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday in a windy qualifying session that was moved to race day because of the powerful typhoon that hit Japan on Saturday.

Vettel secured his first pole position since the Canadian GP in June with a lap of 1 minute, 27.064 seconds, 0.189 seconds ahead of teammate Charles Leclerc.

“It was not easy, the conditions were very different from Friday and we didn’t expect to be on the front row,” Vettel said. “What we had was unbelievable, the car felt light and there was a headwind which is what you like.”

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton were third and fourth, respectively, followed by the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen in fifth and Alexander Albon in sixth.

“We seemed quite strong, but we always knew Ferrari might have something in reserve,” Bottas said. “In Q3 they looked untouchable.”

Organizers canceled Saturday’s qualifying session with Typhoon Hagibis set to hit Japan’s main island. At least seven people have died while 15 are missing after the massive typhoon lashed a wide area of the country.

Qualifying at Suzuka was also moved to Sunday morning as a result of bad weather in 2004 and 2010.

While the track was dry Sunday morning, lingering winds from the typhoon resulted in several crashes early in the morning session.

The Williams of Robert Kubica crashed into the wall just two minutes into qualifying bringing out the red flag.

Haas driver Kevin Magnussen also crashed early in the session.

Hamilton, who has a commanding 73-point lead over Bottas with five races left, has won here in four of the last five races.

If Hamilton is able to win here, he will equal Michael Schumacher’s record for the highest number of wins at the Japanese GP with six. Hamilton won with McLaren in 2007 and with Mercedes in 2014, 2015, 2017 and last year.

Vettel has also had success here, winning four times between 2009 and 2013.

McLaren driver Carlos Sainz Jr. was seventh followed by teammate Lando Norris. Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly was ninth while Haas driver Romain Grosjean rounded out the top ten.

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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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.”