Vettel happy with 3rd place, but cannot challenge Mercedes

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Sebastian Vettel has claimed Red Bull’s first points of the season at today’s Malaysian Grand Prix after finishing in third place behind the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

The German driver did begin the race in second place, but dropped down to fourth at the start after making a bad getaway before getting third place back from Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo.

“The start was not so good,” Vettel conceded on the podium after the race. “I was surprised when I saw Nico on my right. I thought I had a good start, but yeah I focused on getting in the tow of Lewis to try and get him into the first corner, then Nico was there on the right and it was quite tight.

“Daniel was coming as well as I was trying to pass Nico, so I lost a place. Fortunately I got it back.”

Vettel then spent the rest of the race behind Rosberg, and despite getting close to the Mercedes after the second round of pit stops, the defending world champion admitted that his compatriot was simply too quick.

“Later on obviously I was trying to get as close as I could to Nico,” he explained. “At some stage it looks like we are pretty similar, pretty evenly matched, but then it’s like he found another gear, he was pulling away and in the end I was just trying to bring the car home.”

Red Bull’s weekend was soured when Ricciardo was forced to retire after a problem on his front-left tire during a pit stop, having been sitting comfortably in fourth place. The Australian driver lost a lap whilst he was stuck in the pits, and then suffered a front wing failure that eventually forced him to retire. Nevertheless, Vettel is pleased with how the team is doing, but he acknowledged Mercedes’ advantage.

“All in all, it’s good to get another podium after Daniel has been on the podium in Australia. There’s still a long way, these guys are bloody quick, congratulations to them, they did a good job – trying to catch up!”

After a disastrous winter that appeared to write off Red Bull’s title hopes, the team has responded brilliantly and has returned to form after just two races of the 2014 season. However, the pressure will now be on for the team to cut the gap to Mercedes and begin to forge ahead in the hunt for a fifth straight title.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.