Hamilton unconcerned by rumors linking Vettel to Mercedes

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Lewis Hamilton has said that he is not concerned about his future with Mercedes despite reports in the paddock this weekend suggesting that Sebastian Vettel may be on the German marque’s radar.

According to Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko, Vettel has been subject to approaches from both McLaren and Mercedes for 2016, which would appear to leave Lewis out in the cold following Nico Rosberg’s contract extension. The Briton’s contract runs out at the end of next season.

As a German team, Mercedes may be keen on having the two best German drivers in the sport on its books, but Hamilton is not bothered by these stories.

“I’m not worried about it, but another German driver, I’m not sure if that’s something Mercedes would like, but at the moment I’m here until the end of next year, so it’s not going to be any time soon,” Hamilton said. “But that’s normal, Mercedes is the best, and so everyone is going to want to drive a Mercedes.”

With just 18 months left on his contract, negotiations for a fresh deal should begin shortly. Hamilton confirmed that there is interest from both parties to extend the partnership, but no official talks have taken place yet.

“My representatives haven’t, but we’ve both shown an interest in sitting down and talking,” Hamilton said when asked if any negotiations had begun. “We haven’t sat down yet, but the team know that I would like to push to continue, and I think they made clear that they would like to do the same.

“I’ve been with Mercedes since I was 13, so I very much feel like I have Mercedes imprinted on my chest. It’s very much a family for me, but you never know what’s going to happen in the future, but I can’t particularly see myself anywhere else.

“If they happen to want someone else, that’s the way it is, I’m not going to whinge about it. There’s places for everyone.”

As the 2014 F1 season reaches its summer break, silly season is starting to get underway. It says a lot about the reputation Mercedes has now created in the F1 community that drivers are being linked to seats with the team for the season after next; the car is that good.

Would Vettel really walk away from Red Bull? “I think any offer has to be considered but nothing has changed,” he said on Thursday in Hungary.

It’s going to be a long summer of wild rumors, and frankly, silly season is only just getting started.

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds