Sebastian Vettel first discussed Ferrari move back in 2008

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Ahead of his debut for the team in Australia next weekend, Sebastian Vettel has revealed that he first discussed a possible move to Scuderia Ferrari back in 2008.

The German driver walked away from Red Bull at the end of 2014 after 15 years in association with the brand, with the relationship yielded four drivers’ championships between 2010 and 2013.

He ultimately secured a seat with Ferrari for the 2015 season, but explained to Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport this week that the move has been years in the making.

“When I arrived at Toro Rosso [in 2007], I started greeting Stefano Domenicali and the Ferrari technicians who took care of my engine,” Vettel said.

“With Domenicali, I discussed once and again about a potential future for me at Ferrari. In 2010 there was another approach, but again with nothing put to paper.”

Vettel also revealed that he held secret talks with Ferrari in the 2012 off-season after defeating the team’s lead driver, Fernando Alonso, at the final race of the year for the drivers’ championship.

“In the winter between 2012 and 2013 I went in secret to Maranello to talk with Luca di Montezemolo,” he explained.

“By the middle of last year, Domenicali was gone but the contact continued with Marco Mattiacci and I spoke again with Montezemolo, but at one point Montezemolo and Mattiacci left the scene too.”

Vettel discussed the move Michael Schumacher when he was first approached by Domenicali, and asked his manager, Sabine Kehm, about it last year when more formal talks were held.

“Talks went on anyway and I asked Schumacher’s manager Sabine Kehm for her opinion,” Vettel said. “Unfortunately I couldn’t speak with Michael.

“A while ago I told him about the possibility offered by Domenicali, and he said that if I agreed, I would find a nice atmosphere and a great enthusiasm in Maranello.

“It was a dream for me. Now I’m happy I’m inside that dream.”

Like Vettel, Schumacher left a championship-winning team (Benetton) to try and rebuild the Ferrari into world-beaters. Ten years and five world titles later, Schumacher left the team and retired from F1 in 2006 having done exactly that. The challenge now lies with Vettel to emulate his childhood hero and take the Italian marque back to the top of the sport.

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.