Vettel: We’re doing better than expected

2 Comments

Sebastian Vettel believes that the Red Bull team is doing better than expected as the Formula 1 circus arrives in Malaysia ahead of next weekend’s race in Kuala Lumpur.

Vettel retired from the Australian Grand Prix after just three laps due to an engine problem, meaning that his hopes of winning a record-breaking tenth straight grand prix were soon dashed. Despite Red Bull coming away from Melbourne with zero points following Daniel Ricciardo’s disqualification, Vettel is still pleased with the team’s position heading to the Malaysian Grand Prix given the struggles it endured in the pre-season tests.

“We still have a lot of work to do with the car but it was encouraging to see that our pace was better than expected in Australia,” Vettel explained. “Hopefully we can build on that and start collecting some strong points in the next two races.”

The team had been well behind the front-running teams during testing, but responded in great fashion down under as Ricciardo rallied to finish the race in second place, only to be disqualified for a fuel irregularity.

Vettel will return to the site of the infamous ‘Multi 21’ debacle that occurred at last year’s Malaysian Grand Prix, where he deliberately ignored team orders to seize victory from teammate Mark Webber. However, the German driver is focusing on dealing with the unique challenges that the Sepang International Circuit poses.

“Looking to the track, the two overtaking possibilities are the first corner and before the last corner, which in both cases is after a long straight; my favourite corners are five and six,” he said.

“Beside the challenge of the circuit, you have to cope with the tropical heat. We can be driving in humidity of up to 90%, while big thunderstorms in the afternoon are not uncommon.”

With the race being held in monsoon season, wet weather usually hits the track at some point during the race weekend. In 2009, the weather was so bad that the race had to be red flagged after just 31/56 laps, with Jenson Button being declared the winner and receiving half-points.

Fernando Alonso likes NASCAR country, but he’s not leaving F1 any time soon

Getty Images
Leave a comment

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Jimmie Johnson strolled into the Charlotte Convention Center and did a double-take when he saw Fernando Alonso hanging out in a hallway.

“What’s he doing here?” NASCAR’s seven-time champion wondered.

Alonso made the trip to North Carolina to make an appearance at NASCAR’s annual preseason media tour. No, a ride in NASCAR is not imminent, but the two-time Formula One champion is about to embark on his first major sports car race .

Alonso will race this weekend in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona for United Autosports, the sports car team owned by his McLaren F1 boss, Zak Brown. It was Brown who paved the way for Alonso to compete in last year’s Indianapolis 500, and he is helping the Spaniard knock prestigious races off his wish list.

Alonso spent about 10 minutes chatting with Johnson, and the duo was eventually joined by sports car aces Scott Pruett and Joey Hand, who were brought to the NASCAR event by IMSA to help promote the Rolex, and then Cup champion Kevin Harvick.

The meet-and-greet with Alonso was a thrill for Johnson. Alonso was equally impressed.

“The first time I heard his name it was probably 2003 on the NASCAR video game,” Alonso said Tuesday. “I used to choose him, not knowing him, just because of the car. I remember playing with another friend of mine, he likes a chocolate company I will not name now, and he was choosing that car and I was choosing Jimmie’s car.

“But that was the first time I heard of him, and obviously the success that he has in the years in motor racing, he became a legend of our sport, and massive respect.”

Johnson said he’s always been a fan of Alonso’s and spent some time telling Alonso how well he ran in the Indianapolis 500 last May. Alonso led 27 laps and seemed to be in contention for the win until his engine expired 21 laps from the finish.

“He handled himself so well, really did a great job, and I think brought a lot to the table,” Johnson said. “He brought worldwide attention to motorsports and it was really good for us here stateside.”

While in NASCAR country, Alonso was asked about potentially trying a stock car someday. It’s not something that could happen soon, he said, but it is something he’d like to at least attempt.

“Right now, it looks quite far. The driving technique and the experience all those guys have, it’s difficult for me to achieve that level,” Alonso said. “I will never know until I try, so I would like one day to test a car and after that, driving the car, I will know how enjoyable it will be in racing.

“Outside (watching), the races are great because they are all in a group, it is not predictable at all and until the last lap, you don’t know what is going to happen. We love watching from the outside, but I don’t know from the inside.”

Alonso has so far only had three days of testing at Daytona in the sports car to adjust to a closed cockpit, as well as driving at night and in traffic. Trying different series has been a thrill for him, and he’s still eyeing a way to get Le Mans on his schedule.

“It’s one thing that I would like to do, I would like to compete in the best races in the world, and Le Mans and is one of the top races,” he said. “If that day will be this year or not is still to be discussed, but maybe yes.”

More AP Auto Racing: https://racing.ap.org/