Vettel: Gap has widened between Ferrari and Mercedes

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MONTMELO – Sebastian Vettel believes that the gap between Ferrari and Mercedes at the front of the field in Formula 1 has widened since the last race in Bahrain.

Heading into this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, most of the teams have brought some updates to their cars in a bid to improve their pace and cut the gap to the front of the field.

Ferrari has been Mercedes’ closest challenger in 2015, allowing Vettel to win the Malaysian Grand Prix ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in what was considered to be a shock result.

Despite qualifying third in Bahrain, Vettel believes that the gap to Mercedes has grown since the last race in Bahrain three weeks ago, but he hopes that the difference will be less concerning in the race on Sunday.

“I hope it’s going to be better in the race,” Vettel said. “I think we expected them to be very, very strong here because in winter testing they were very strong and I’m sure they have improved their car since then.

“Obviously it’s true that the gap is there, the gap is probably a little bit bigger than it was the last couple of races.

“I don’t think that’s down to one thing only, I think there’s always a lot of things you throw in the bag and maybe we are struggling a little bit more this weekend. I’m looking forward to seeing where we are tomorrow.”

Ferrari has been struggling with the setup on its cars this weekend, prompting Kimi Raikkonen to revert back to the specification that he used in Bahrain instead of running the new updates.

However, Vettel remains confident that Ferrari will be in a better position for the race on Sunday.

“I think we feel we should be in a good shape tomorrow for a good race, but I have to say that those two guys, they’re doing a good job,” he said.

“They’re quick, they’ve been very quick here in the winter and I think they confirmed that so far. So I hope tomorrow, as I said, we can be a bit closer but we’ll see.”

The Spanish Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 7:30am ET on Sunday.

Three-time W Series champ Jamie Chadwick joining Andretti in Indy NXT Series for 2023

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Jamie Chadwick, the three-time W Series champion, will drive for Andretti Autosport in the Indy NXT Series next season.

Chadwick will make her debut in an American racing series in March, driving the No. 28 for Andretti Autosport with sponsorship from DHL. The 24-year-old will become the first female driver in 13 years to compete full time in the Indy NXT championship.

Chadwick joined the female free-to-enter W Series in its inaugural 2019 season, winning two races and the first of three consecutive championships. She has been a reserve driver for the Williams Formula One team and will continue in that role in 2023. She also has driven in the Extreme E Series.

Despite her success, Chadwick hasn’t landed a bigger ride in F3 or F2, and her break didn’t come until Michael Andretti contacted her and offered a test in an Indy NXT car.

The final three races of this year’s W Series schedule were canceled when funding fell through, but Chadwick still believes the all-female series was the right path for her.

“W Series has always been and will continue to be an opportunity to be racing for every female driver, so for my side, I looked at it while perhaps I would have liked to step up maybe earlier, at the same time being able to have that chance to race, get that experience, have that development, seat time… I was constantly learning,” Chadwick told The Associated Press.

“In that sense, I wasn’t frustrated at all. But on the flip side of it, now I’ve had that experience testing in the United States in Indy NXT and this is something I’m really excited about.”

Chadwick also is expected to have an enhanced role as a development driver next season with Williams, which chose American driver Logan Sargeant to fill its open seat on next year’s F1 grid.

“Andretti Autosport is proud to be supporting Jamie alongside DHL,” said Michael Andretti. “Jamie’s successful career speaks for itself, but Indy NXT gives Jamie the opportunity to continue her development in a new type of racing.

“We’ve turned out five Indy NXT champions over the years and look forward to continuing our role in developing new talent.”

Indy NXT is the new name of the rebranded Indy Lights Series, the final step on the ladder system before IndyCar.

Andretti will field two drivers next season in IndyCar that were developed in Indy NXT: Kyle Kirkwood, the 2021 champion, will return to Andretti after one season in IndyCar driving for A.J. Foyt Racing, and Devlin DeFrancesco is back for a second season.

Chadwick will be teammates in Indy NXT with Hunter McElrea and Louis Foster. She becomes Andretti’s second full-time female driver alongside Catie Munnings, who competes for Andretti United in the Extreme E Series.