Vettel: Gap to Mercedes hasn’t changed since Australia

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Sebastian Vettel has said that Red Bull needs to make bigger gains with the RB10 car if it is to even begin to cut the gap to Mercedes at the front of the field.

Red Bull’s defence of its world championships has been very tame, whilst Mercedes has taken advantage of the new regulations to forge ahead at the front of the field with almost double the points of any other team.

Despite appearing to make up some ground over the first half of the season, Vettel feels that Red Bull is just as far behind the German marque now as it was in March, and is unsure whether the gap can be made up before the beginning of next season.

“It’s difficult to say right now,” Vettel said when asked about catching Mercedes for 2015. “The gap is very big and we didn’t really close the gap since race one.

“We have tried lots of things to improve but they do the same thing. We need bigger steps of development to close the gap even more. I think at the end of the season we can judge a little better what we need to do during the winter.”

The likely banning of FRIC suspension systems for the German Grand Prix could dent Mercedes’ advantage, but Vettel is unconcerned about the change at Red Bull should it go ahead.

“We know what we are running but we don’t know what they are running,” he said. “It’s pretty clear what the FIA has said and probably some teams will be more affected than other teams.”

Williams’ Valtteri Bottas also suggested that Mercedes of all teams will be affected, saying: “Maybe some teams could be more affected than us I would say. We’ll see, I don’t really know what’s going to happen.

“What will be the decision, I think we’ll be okay with it. I don’t think it’s going to be key to the season or anything like that.”

Vettel will be hoping to return to form at his home race in Germany next weekend, but barring a double failure for Mercedes like we saw in Canada, his hopes of securing back-to-back home wins appear to be slim.

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.