Mattiacci determined to turn around Ferrari’s failing season

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New Ferrari team principal Marco Mattiacci faced the media for the first time in China today after taking over from Stefano Domenicali earlier this week. The Italian – who had remained hidden behind his dark sunglasses for much of the weekend – outlined his determination for the rest of the year, and is refusing to give up despite the team making its worst start to a season since 2009.

Mattiacci had been working as the Italian marque’s North America CEO in New York, but he has now been moved across to the sporting side of the outfit. Despite not having much experience in racing, he is confident that he can bring a fresh outlook to the team.

“I think sometimes you can bring a new perspective, looking at issues and opportunities, and the fact that I need to prove that at the level of Ferrari first, and at the level of Formula 1, means you are in front of an exceedingly motivated person,” Mattiacci explained to the media.

“I love racing, I race myself in my spare time. I spend probably 20 or 22 weekends at the track last year and I attended the 24 Hours of Daytona, sleeping at the track and trying to learn as much as I could.

“It’s not Formula1, but I love racing, I love continuous improvement, challenging a team to give a better car and get as much as we can from the track.”

Despite the team’s poor start to the season, Mattiacci still believes that it can win both championships this year with the star-studded line-up of Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen.

“I don’t think we are going to give up,” he said. “Our goal is to close the gap as much as we can with the leaders and at the moment that is Mercedes. There are many variables that can influence a lap that can influence a race and a championship.

“It’s still very early to make decisions but our goal is to close the gap as soon as possible with Mercedes. It’s not an easy task, not an easy task.”

Mattiacci also revealed that he only got the call from Luca di Montezemolo last Friday about taking over from Domenicali, and spent some time with the outgoing team boss in order to learn the ropes.

“I received a call at 5:58am on Friday morning and the chairman Montezemolo was on the phone and told me ‘this is my idea’,” he explained. “I thought that April fool was already 15 days earlier so in the second or third minutes of the discussion I understood he was serious, and I understood that because there was already a ticket ready to go from New York to Milan in three hours. I arrived on Saturday morning in Maranello at the Fiorano track.”

And as for the sunglasses? Tiredness, given that he had spent the majority of the last week on planes and in airports.

The initial skepticism about having a ‘commercial’ manager come into the team as Domenicali’s replacement may not have disappeared just yet, but it was certainly an encouraging press conference from Mattiacci.

“What is needed will be done,” he said. Ferrari might be on the verge of some changes to fit in with its new F1 team boss.

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.