Vettel: Mercedes further ahead than Red Bull ever was

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Sebastian Vettel believes that the advantage that Mercedes currently enjoys at the beginning of the 2014 Formula 1 season is greater than Red Bull’s ever was over the past five years.

Mercedes has made a superb start to the season, leading every lap and claiming four one-two finishes to accompany its five wins. As a result, the German marque leads the constructors’ championship by over 100 points after just five rounds.

“We’ve never been in that kind of position,” Vettel explained in Monaco yesterday. “It’s easy now to look back and say we dominated everything and it was easy, but the way I remember it was a little bit different to that.

“I don’t think we ever started the season with five wins as a team. We had a different and strong finish last year but if you look at the races and the gaps, I think it’s a different story.”

Vettel and Red Bull won four world championships together between 2010 and 2013, and it culminated in a superb run of nine straight wins at the end of last season. However, the team rarely outclassed the field in the comfortable fashion that Mercedes has so far this year.

“We’ve been at the top the last couple of years, we know how it feels like and the sort of things you have to deal with, probably now they are in a similar position and they deserve it as they do the best job,” Vettel explained, praising the German team.

“You have to respect that Mercedes has a strong package so they will be very strong here I guess.

“Nico and Lewis are very good around here so they will be the ones to beat but maybe we can be a bit closer.”

In first practice earlier today, Red Bull did appear to have made a step forward as Daniel Ricciardo finished within three-tenths of first-placed Lewis Hamilton. Nevertheless, Mercedes does remain the team to beat, and barring something out of the ordinary, it is difficult to see that changing any time soon.

MRTI: Keith Donegan earns Mazda Shootout Scholarship

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Dublin, Ireland’s Keith Donegan claimed a $200K scholarship from Mazda after emerging victorious at the second annual Mazda Road to Indy Shootout. The 20-year-old Donegan earned an at-large nomination for the scholarship based on his performance at this year’s Formula Ford Festival, in which he finished second in the final, and emerged from a pack of 17 drivers from across the globe to claim the scholarship.

“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” said an emotional Donegan, who earlier in his career actually spent two years away from racing as he focused on academics. “The weekend was really good and I enjoyed it. I have to say a huge thanks to Mazda and Cooper Tires and everyone at the Mazda Road to Indy. I enjoyed every moment. Throughout the weekend we were consistent and I kept the small things in check. I didn’t make any stupid mistakes and kept my head cool and that really paid off in the end.”

The two-day shootout was held at the Bondurant Racing School in Arizona and saw the nominated drivers tackle the school’s 1.6-mile circuit in Formula Mazda race cars before facing on and off-track assessments. Donegan was selected by a panel of judges that included former driver and current Verizon IndyCar Series TV analyst Scott Goodyear, Mazda drivers Tom Long, Andrew Carbonell, and Jonathan Bomarito, as well as Victor Franzoni – the current champion of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – and Oliver Askew, the current champion of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

Donegan was humbled to be in the presence of drivers who have won scholarships and championships previously, and added that he is grateful to have the opportunity to continue his racing career.

“You see all these champions here today that will go on to great things in the future and I’m sure the names you see here today aren’t going to disappear,” Donegan added. “They will be back up there and I’m sure I will be racing them again some day. It is an unbelievable opportunity to be given and for Mazda to provide that for any young driver. It just gives that bit of motivation that you need because the [U.S.] is where you need to go to become a professional these days. It is such a boost to my career.”

Donegan is now slated to join the 2018 USF2000 championship, with further announcements regarding the team with whom he’ll be racing to come in the future.

Follow @KyleMLavigne