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Sebastian Vettel: Mercedes still the team to beat despite Ferrari’s pace

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Sebastian Vettel believes that Mercedes remains the team to beat in Formula 1 despite Ferrari’s strong showing through pre-season testing.

Mercedes enters 2017 chasing a fourth straight championship double, having claimed the drivers’ and constructors’ crowns every year since 2014.

Even with a change in the technical regulations for the coming season, Mercedes remains the favorite to win both titles ahead of the opening round in Australia on March 26.

Ferrari has impressed through pre-season testing, with Vettel recording the fastest time of the winter on Thursday and having more pace in hand.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has said that Ferrari is “bluffing”, hiding its pre-season pace, but Vettel played down Ferrari’s showing, stressing that Mercedes is still the team out front.

“I think we’re focusing on our stuff here. It’s important, there’s a lot of stuff on our list,” Vettel said.

“We’re probably still a little bit behind. There’s a lot of stuff to do and a lot of boxes to be ticked. In Melbourne, we’ll see, obviously it’s a very special type of track.

“I think we’ve learned in the past that Barcelona is important, to give an indication. For sure the car is much better than last year because the nature of the formula has changed. So far things are making sense, but it’s still early days.

“If you look at the amount of laps Mercedes has done, historically how slow they were going in the tests, and how much they were able to ramp it up for the races. It’s clear that they are very fast, if you look at their long-run pace, I think they’re the ones to beat.

“It doesn’t really matter where we are now. We are growing, we need to work hard, we know that we had to improve and that’s why I think it’s important not to get distracted right now.”

Porsche pulls GTLM cars from Mid-Ohio because of COVID-19 positives

Porsche Mid-Ohio COVID-19
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Porsche will skip Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race with its two GTLM cars at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course after three positive COVID-19 tests were confirmed during the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

That resulted in Porsche choosing to pull out of the Nurburgring 24 Hour endurance race in Germany, electing to avoid sending any team members as a precautionary measure.

Porsche Motorsport announced Tuesday that its COVID-19 decision also would apply at Mid-Ohio to its No. 911 and No. 12 teams.

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Three of Porsche’s four IMSA GTLM drivers — Laurens Vanthoor, Frederic Makowiecki and Nick Tandy — also were racing in Le Mans. The trio has remained isolated in Europe and won’t be allowed to travel.

“Based on yesterday’s decision that no employee or racing driver of our Le Mans team will participate in the Nürburgring 24 Hours, we have today decided that this ruling will also apply to the upcoming IWSC race in Mid-Ohio,” Fritz Enzinger, vice president for Porsche Motorsport, said in a release. “This means that Laurens, Nick and Fred will not be traveling to the USA.

“This is very regrettable, but we would like to emphasize that in this case as well the health of all those concerned is the prime focus of the decisions we have taken.”

The decision also affects Earl Bamber, who teamed with Vanthoor to win the GTLM championship last year in the No. 912.

Porsche said its GTLM Porsche 911 RSR-19 entries will return for the Oct. 10 race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

That will reduce the GTLM class to four cars — two Corvettes and two BMWs — this weekend at Mid-Ohio, in what could be somewhat of a 2021 preview. Porsche Motorsport announced earlier this year that it will leave IMSA after the 2020 season because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.