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Berger: Rosberg keen to stay at Mercedes, but must remain firm in talks

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Gerhard Berger believes that Nico Rosberg must remain firm in negotiations with Mercedes over a new contract despite wanting to remain with the team.

Rosberg’s current deal with Mercedes expires at the end of this season, having last signed an extension back in 2014.

Speculation has been rife about the current Formula 1 championship leader’s future in recent weeks, with reports in the Italian press linking him with a possible move to Ferrari.

Over the Monaco Grand Prix weekend, it was revealed that Rosberg has brought in ex-F1 driver and team owner Gerhard Berger to help with negotiations.

In an interview with the official F1 website, Berger spoke about his role with Rosberg, revealing that he only came on board earlier this month.

“It was pretty simple: I have known Nico since he was a little boy, as I raced against his dad Keke for years,” Berger explained.

“Last week both contacted me to see if I could do them a favor and negotiate Nico’s new contract, as he wants to fully concentrate on the championship. I said, ‘Of course!’ It’s kind of a friendly turn.”

Berger confirmed that both parties are keen to extend the deal, but said that Rosberg needs to remain firm to ensure he is happy with the agreement.

“I think everybody understands the other’s position: Mercedes wants to keep Nico and Nico wants to stay with Mercedes,” Berger said.

“But, of course, there has to be a firm view in the details – a rigid setting of the scene.

“To be honest it would really surprise me if we also started to negotiate with another team.

“But you never know. Clearly Mercedes is the first address for us.”

Berger admitted that an offer from Ferrari could be attractive to Rosberg, but does not expect him to accept a slower car than the one he is currently in.

“It is probably true from an emotional point of view that Nico would be flattered,” Berger said.

“But what is paramount in all negotiations and considerations is who can provide the best car on the grid – and that definitely is Mercedes.”

Word in the Monaco paddock was that Mercedes had only offered Rosberg a one-year extension that would take him to the end of 2017, while the German driver was keen to get a longer deal signed up.

Mercedes non-executive director Niki Lauda said earlier this week that he wanted Rosberg to sign a new contract in the next three weeks so that the team could fully focus on its bid for both championships.

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.