Vettel: Championship bid doesn’t hinge on Australian GP

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Sebastian Vettel has played down the importance of the first race of the 2016 Formula 1 season, saying that his championship bid does not hinge on the result of the Australian Grand Prix.

Vettel led Ferrari’s revival in 2015, claiming three race wins en route to third place in the drivers’ championship behind the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

Ferrari is expected to put up a greater challenge for both titles in 2016, but Vettel was cautious when speaking at the Pirelli tire test in France earlier this week.

“It’s natural that we all want to win – the team is quite big, there’s a lot of people and if you ask everyone, I think our target is to win,” Vettel said.

“We know it’s very ambitious, we know that the gap has been quite big last year. I think we did a good job over the season to come closer.

“This year we have some changes and we will have to see. Obviously the testing is crucial to start on the right foot and then we go from there.

“But Australia is one race from 21. If you win there, it’s great. If not, you try to finish as close as possible to the top step and collect as many points. And after that it’s a long year.”

Vettel completed 134 laps behind the wheel of the SF15-T on Tuesday at Paul Ricard, and said he found the test useful despite it offering little in the way of information for the new season.

“It’s always useful to drive a car,” Vettel said. “It was fun, even if, with a lot of different prototype tires, you may get different results, without knowing which tires we are testing, or if they are going to be used in the future or not.

“You can have a rough idea which tires you test and how the tires were last year, but it’s not clear what’s going to happen with the tires after this, even if for sure there are some results, but it’s too early to say.”

X44 Racing win 2022 Extreme E championship as Abt Cupra score first race victory

2022 Extreme E Uruguay
Extreme E
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Abt Cupra Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Klara Andersson scored their first win in the Extreme E Energy X Prix in the 2022 finale in Uruguay as Lewis Hamilton’s X44 Vida Carbon Racing drivers Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez survived a chaotic finale to edge the 2021 champion Rosberg X Prix team of Johan Kristoffersson and Mikhaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky, by two points.

“There are so many emotions,” Andersson said in Extreme E’s coverage. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long. In my second race, first full weekend to be at the top of the podium: it’s big.”

Andersson was behind the wheel at the finish.

Rosberg Racing entered the event with a 17-point advantage over X44, but the standings were close enough that four teams remained in contention in Round 5.

“It’s a crucial weekend for us,” Loeb said in Extreme E’s coverage prior to the race. “We are not in the best position to win the championship, but the only thing we can do is try to win the race and score as many points as possible.”

The top two title contenders each crashed in qualification and were relegated to the Crazy Race, Extreme E’s version of the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ). For the moment, they had the steepest hill to climb, but then the other two championship contending teams, Chip Ganassi Racing and Acciona Sainz Racing failed to advance from their heats.

Only one team advances from the Crazy Race, so the X44 drivers were in a must-win situation to simply keep hope alive.

More: Extreme E 2023 schedule

Ahlin-Kottulinsky and Gutierrez ran wheel to wheel into the first turn at the start of the LCQ.

The Rosberg racer experienced crash damage in that turn that damaged her front steering, but managed to limp back to the pits at the end of her two-lap stint. The team attempted to fix the steering, but incurred a penalty for having too many mechanics in the pit area.

Meanwhile, Gutierrez took the early lead, but knew she would need to sit through a five-second penalty for an incident earlier in the weekend. The female half of the gender equal pair erased the penalty by entering the Switch Zone with a five-second lead before turning the car over to Loeb.

That was all the nine-time World Rally Championship titlist needed to give him the advantage needed to win the Crazy Race.

But the championship was not over yet. X44 Racing needed to finish third or better in the five-car finale to earn enough points for the title and after advancing from the LCQ, they were forced to take the worst grid position.

A chaotic start to the Finale saw Loeb run as high the lead and low as fourth after getting pushed off course during his first lap. And that is how he entered to Switch Zone.

On her first lap, Gutierrez slammed into Molly Taylor. With one lap remaining, X44 and Gutierrez were still in fourth and the title hope was quickly evaporating, but it was announced halfway through the lap that the third-running Andretti United team would suffer a penalty for a Switch Zone infraction. The seven-second deduction for Timmy Hansen braking too late in the zone made the difference in the title.

Coming off a disappointing Copper X Prix when Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour crossed under the checkers first, but were relegated to fifth by penalty, the McLaren pair scored their first podium of the season in second.