Kaltenborn: Fight for Sauber seats wide open

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Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn has said that the team is not rushing into a decision about its driver line-up for next season, and that the fight between its reserve drivers is still very open.

Last week, Russian youngster Sergey Sirotkin said that his fellow Sauber reserve driver Simona de Silvestro was merely a “marketing move”, and that he did not consider her to be a threat for a seat at the team. Kaltenborn explained how the plan to get Sirotkin into F1 remains, but she said that there were a couple of options for the team in 2015.

“We have a couple of options and we’ll see when the time is there,” she said. “We have said that it’s our intention with the ones we have on board right now, particularly Sergey, who we are preparing on his way into Formula 1.

“He needs to focus on what he’s doing now, and he did a good job in Moscow, he won the race, so that’s continuing. We’re not in any hurry there.”

de Silvestro left IndyCar at the end of last season to join Sauber as an affiliate driver, and she is looking to make the step up to F1 in the near future. Earlier this week, it was confirmed that she would be testing in Austin, with the Circuit of the Americas becoming her official testing partner.

Kaltenborn was pleased with how de Silvestro fared at her last test in Valencia, saying: “It went very well actually, she covered 1200km, and she did a very good job.”

For the time being, the fight for the seats at Sauber remains open. Test driver Giedo van der Garde will also be hoping to stake his claim for a full-time seat, meaning that neither of the full-time drivers – Esteban Gutierrez and Adrian Sutil – can be certain of their F1 future.

Sirotkin will hope to keep up his good form in Formula Renault 3.5, but to say that de Silvestro is merely a “marketing move” would be to underestimate her position and ability.

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.