Mattiacci impressed by Vettel’s passion for Ferrari


ABU DHABI – Ferrari team principal Marco Mattiacci has said that the process of signing Sebastian Vettel for 2015 was “very straightforward”, and that he felt impressed by the four-time world champion’s passion for the Italian marque.

After announcing in October that he would be leaving Red Bull at the end of the season, Vettel confirmed on Thursday that he would be joining Ferrari on a three-year deal, replacing the McLaren-bound Fernando Alonso.

Vettel has been associated with the Red Bull brand for over 15 years, enjoying all of his success in F1 under its umbrella. However, he will now follow in Michael Schumacher’s footsteps and join an ailing Ferrari team for 2015, and Mattiacci is excited by the German’s arrival.

“With Sebastian we get one of the youngest world champions ever, four championships,” he said. “I met him personally in the last few months. He is an extremely hard-working guy, humble, disciplined.

“I’m sure he will bring the phenomenal experience that he went through [with] Red bull and the enthusiasm needed to go through certain difficult moments that are waiting for us, but again sharing the overall project that I think is to go back to the top.”

Mattiacci said that negotiations with Vettel were uncomplicated as he explained the long-term vision he has for Ferrari in its bid to return to the top of Formula 1.

“[It was] very straightforward,” he said. “I think I was really impressed with how clever he is, and being an extremely clever person and with great passion for Ferrari.

“I think the arguments have to be solid arguments. That was discussion about the project, the investment, typical when you want to bring in a four-time world champion, you don’t just over-sell, you talk about a few things.”

Mattiacci’s arrival sparked the beginning of a shift at Ferrari, replacing Stefano Domenicali as team principal in April. In September, Luca di Montezemolo resigned as the marque’s president, with Alonso being the third and final big name to depart from Maranello earlier this week.

However, Mattiacci thanked the Spaniard for all of his work with Ferrari over the past five years.

“We need to thank Fernando for all he has done for us, what we have done together over the last five years,” Mattiacci said. “But at the same time, it is clear to everybody that we want both to open new cycles, but it was important to do it with the utmost motivation and commitment.”

Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

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NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?