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Mercedes won’t announce Nico Rosberg’s replacement until the new year

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Mercedes has confirmed that it will make no announcement regarding Nico Rosberg’s replacement for the 2017 Formula 1 season until the new year.

Rosberg announced his retirement from motorsport just five days after winning his first F1 drivers’ title in Abu Dhabi, beating teammate Lewis Hamilton.

The shock decision freed up a seat at Mercedes for 2017 alongside Hamilton, sparking a late twist in the driver market for next season.

Pascal Wehrlein and Valtteri Bottas are both known to be in contention for the seat, while Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda has claimed that over half of the current F1 grid has expressed interest.

However, Mercedes has now confirmed that no announcement will be made this side of new year.

“There will be no announcements from us until next year and nothing is planned for the period between now and our return to work on 3rd January,” a spokesman from Mercedes said.

Mercedes began its search for Rosberg’s replacement three days after his announcement, and reportedly made an approach for Bottas, who is signed to race for Williams in 2017.

BBC Sport reported earlier this week that Mercedes offered Williams a discount on its engines for 2017, as well as the services of junior driver Wehrlein, only to be knocked back.

Mercedes had also been linked with high-profile drivers Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso for 2017, but both have re-affirmed their commitment to their existing teams in recent weeks.

Three-time world champion Hamilton has insisted that he is not looking for number one status within Mercedes for 2017, simply wishing for equal rights alongside his new teammate, whoever it may be.

The Briton recently met with Mercedes F1 chief Toto Wolff to discuss plans for 2017, most likely including the subject of driver options, and called the discussions “amazing”.

Mercedes’ first on-track commitments in 2017 will be pre-season testing in Barcelona, Spain, which is due to begin on February 27.

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.