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Early contract talks ‘distracting’ for Ferrari F1 drivers

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Ferrari Formula 1 chief Maurizio Arrivabene has no plans to open early contract talks with drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, believing they would only act as a distraction.

Vettel comes to the end of his three-year deal with Ferrari in 2017, while Raikkonen remains on a year-by-year contract that is also up at the close of the season.

F1’s driver market for 2018 is set to hinge on Ferrari’s move and whether Mercedes opts to keep Valtteri Bottas, the Finn having signed an initial one-year deal for 2017.

Speaking over last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, Arrivabene was asked about Vettel’s future, but said that it was too early to start talking about plans for next year.

“Talking about contracts now is only distracting the attention of our drivers, so I’m not ready to talk about any contracts,” Arrivabene said.

“Then, I would like to see Sebastian happy during the season, because if Sebastian is happy, that means the car is very quick.”

Much of the tension that appeared to brew between Vettel and Ferrari in 2016 was defused in Australia as both claimed their first victory since the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix.

Vettel was able to outpace Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton, taking advantage of the Briton’s struggles on the super-soft tire to finish almost 10 seconds clear at the front of the pack.

Nevertheless, Vettel stressed after winning the race that it was too early to start thinking about a bid for a fifth championship and potentially end Ferrari’s drought that dates back to 2008.

“The first race is not the time to look at the table. As I’ve said before, you really have to go step by step,” Vettel said.

“It’s good to know that we have a great car but it’s just the beginning: new regulations, new generations of cars so there will be a lot of progress.

“[Mercedes] have proved to be the ones to beat for the last couple of years, more and more so. We know that they have a great engine but also they had a great car the last couple of years and they made good steps forward so we are the ones who need to catch up.

“For today I am just very happy and for sure whatever happens this year, the race today doesn’t hurt.”

Marco Andretti to drive throwback scheme to honor 25th anniversary of grandfather Mario’s last win

Photo courtesy Andretti-Herta Autosport
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Marco Andretti wanted to do something really special to honor the 25th anniversary of grandfather Mario Andretti’s final Indy car win in 1993 at Phoenix International Raceway (now known as ISM Raceway).

So the third-generation Andretti, along with his team, Andretti-Herta Autosport, came up with a plan and design that will take longtime race fans back in time when it appears early next month for the Phoenix Grand Prix.

Marco Andretti’s No. 98 Oberto Beef Jerky Circle K/Curb Honda will be decked out in the colors of the car his grandfather won his last race on the one-mile short track 25 years ago.

“When the idea of a throwback livery celebrating my grandfather’s final win was thrown around, Oberto was ready to get to the drawing board,” Marco Andretti said in a media release. “The black, white and red car resembles many of my family’s race cars and was a big part of my life growing up.

“It’s really cool to be able to add one of my cars to that family legacy.”

The car is a virtual double of the legendary Newman-Haas Racing and Texaco/Havoline-sponsored car Mario drove on that celebratory day in the Valley of the Sun 2 ½ decades ago.

Various events and ceremonies during the April 6-7 race weekend will honor the senior Andretti. That includes several of his former competitors who will be on hand to celebrate with Mario, including Emerson Fittipaldi, Bobby Rahal, Jimmy Vasser, Paul Tracy, Arie Luyendyk, and of course, son Michael Andretti and grandson Marco Andretti.

Check out what happened on that day 25 years ago:

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