Leimer hopeful of making F1 debut later this year

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Manor Marussia F1 Team reserve driver Fabio Leimer has hinted that he could be set to make his full Formula 1 debut later this year as part of his ongoing reserve role with the backmarker team.

Since winning the 2013 GP2 Series title, Leimer has failed to make the step up to F1, and had been due to race in the Japanese Super Formula series this year.

However, he walked away from the series before even making a start in order to take up a role with Manor Marussia in support of full-time drivers Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi.

Given that Merhi is on a race-by-race deal, Leimer has been tipped to make his F1 debut later this year as a possible replacement, and told reporters on Friday ahead of his FIA Formula E debut that it could happen before the end of the season.

“At the moment it looks like I will do already at Silverstone, the first free practice [session],” Leimer is quoted as saying by ESPN and GPUpdate.

“As you know F1 is changing quickly so if someone comes with a lot of money… but it looks like at Silverstone and then maybe a chance for the end of the season to do some races.”

Leimer explained how he first came into contact with Manor – then Marussia F1 Team – back in 2013 after winning the GP2 title, but was unable to make the jump from F1’s premier feeder series.

“We were in contact with Marussia since 2013 but at the end we never had the budget so it was already over for me,” he said.

“Suddenly I got a call [saying] ‘we are interested to have you as a third driver and maybe even some races at the end of the year’, so I’m happy.”

Leimer joined Virgin Racing for this weekend’s London ePrix as a late replacement for Jaime Alguersuari, who was forced to miss the Formula E season finale for security reasons.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans

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.