Vettel frustrated to have Ferrari test blocked by Red Bull

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ABU DHABI – Sebastian Vettel has made no secret of his frustration after Red Bull prevented him from leaving the team early and running with Ferrari at next week’s two-day test in Abu Dhabi.

Ferrari announced on Thursday that it had signed the four-time world champion for the 2015 season on a three year contract, replacing the McLaren-bound Fernando Alonso.

Although most contracts run until the end of the calendar year, it was thought that Vettel would try to break free of his contract early and take part in the two-day test for Ferrari, allowing him to settle it a little earlier.

However, speaking to the media after qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix today, he revealed that Red Bull had initially allowed him to take part in the test for Ferrari, only to then decide against it.

“Yes,” he said when asked if he would have liked to test for Ferrari next week. “It’s a shame, especially because initially I was allowed and then I wasn’t, but it is what it is.

“All of a sudden, something changed I think. As far as I understand… I don’t know, the technical people were panicking a little bit, being afraid that I would take some secrets.”

It was then suggested that Vettel could simply take those secrets in January when he officially joins Ferrari.

“Yeah, that’s what I said,” he replied.

Vettel will not be taking part in next week’s test for Red Bull, though, with the team confirming that Carlos Sainz Jr. and Daniel Ricciardo will be completing the two day run at Yas Marina Circuit.

Lewis Hamilton aims to match Michael Schumacher’s F1 win record

Lewis Hamilton Schumacher record
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SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton has set many Formula One marks over the years, but few are as significant as the Michael Schumacher record he can match Sunday at the Russian Grand Prix.

Victory for Hamilton at the Sochi Olympic Park would see him draw level with Schumacher at 91 career victories, more than any other driver in the 70-year history of F1.

It also would increase Hamilton’s commanding 55-point lead over teammate Valtteri Bottas in the championship standings, putting him closer to a seventh world championship, matching another Schumacher record.

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History is on the side of Hamilton, who won Sept. 13 at Mugello. He’s won four of the six Russian races so far, and all six were won by Mercedes drivers. His closest challenger is likely to be Bottas, who beat Hamilton in the 2017 edition of the Russian Grand Prix.

Elsewhere in the championship hunt, Red Bull driver Max Verstappen’s season has gone up in smoke since his Aug. 9 victory at Silverstone. An overheating engine forced the Dutch driver out of the Sept. 6 race at Monza and then a similar problem struck just before the start at Mugello. Verstappen was far slower off the line than the cars around him and was struck by Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo.

That leaves Verstappen 80 points off Hamilton in the standings and a 25-point deficit to Bottas.

If Hamilton does win to tie Schumachher at Sochi, more fans will see it in person than any other race in a 2020 season mostly run before empty grandstands because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Organizers say the race weekend is sold out but haven’t given final ticket sales figures.

Race promoter Alexei Titov previously told Russian state TV that the stands would be at 50 percent of their capacity, which equates to around 30,000 spectators.

That’s far more than the previous season high of 3,000 fans for the most recent race, the Tuscan Grand Prix at the Mugello circuit.

Unlike at the last two races in Italy, there will be a full entertainment program on offer for fans with concerts featuring some of Russia’s most popular musicians.

Russian organizers say they’re taking precautions to keep fans safe and will have medical staff posted at checkpoints around the venue, and that spectators will have their temperature measured on entry.