Vettel finds Ferrari pace ‘promising’ after Malaysia fightback

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Sebastian Vettel may have lost more ground on Formula 1 title rival Lewis Hamilton in Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix, but called Ferrari’s pace “promising” after fighting from last on the grid to finish fourth.

Vettel was unable to post a lap time in qualifying due to an engine issue on his Ferrari, leaving him P20 for the start of the race.

A good getaway saw Vettel rise to P13 on the first lap alone before rising further up the order throughout the first stint.

A late bid to pass Daniel Ricciardo for third place proved fruitless as Vettel’s tires dropped in performance, but the German was nevertheless pleased to finish fourth, with his race pace looking stronger than that of Hamilton’s at a track where Mercedes was expected to dominate.

“I am still optimistic, because we know that we have a quick car. Of course it was a shame for Kimi [Raikkonen] who couldn’t take the start, and for me having to begin my race from the back of the grid,” Vettel said.

“We tried to fight for the podium, pushed very hard, but in the end the tires were starting to give up and we couldn’t be really there. However, it is promising to see the car is good, even if both Kimi and I hit trouble this weekend.

“I don’t know yet if the issue is the same on both cars, we’ll need to have a look. For sure it’s not ideal having one car out yesterday and another one today. So, there’s something we need to understand.

“It’s been a difficult weekend, but nevertheless the speed is there. So far we’ve had a pretty good record for this year regarding reliability.

“I am not that worried to be honest, but we need to get on top of the problem.”

With Hamilton finishing second, Vettel saw the gap at the top of the drivers’ standings grow to 34 points with five races remaining, the next taking place at Suzuka in one week’s time.

Santino Ferrucci will drive No. 14 for AJ Foyt Racing full time in 2023 IndyCar season

Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt
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Santino Ferrucci will return to full-time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series next season, joining AJ Foyt Racing.

Ferrucci had made eight IndyCar starts with three teams since his last full-time season in 2020 while also racing part time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year.

He will drive the storied No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet for four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt’s team, which will field the car from its Waller, Texas headquarters.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the INDYCAR Series full time,” Ferrucci said in a team release. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally. I’m a race car driver, and I want to compete. Working with different teams has been exciting, and I’m proud that no matter which car I’ve raced, I’ve always shown speed and consistency. I couldn’t be more excited to join AJ Foyt Racing in the 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”

Ferrucci, 24, had finished a career-best fourth in IndyCar four times, including the 104th Indy 500 in 2020. He was the 2019 Indy 500 rookie of the year with a sixth.

In nine Xfinity starts since 2021, Ferrucci has a career-best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I am thrilled to welcome Santino to the team,” Larry Foyt said in a release. “He’s shown a knack for getting toward the front of the field, and I think he is a racer who moves forward on race day. A.J. sees the fire in him and has enjoyed their meetings together. I think Santino’s experience will help his rookie teammate as well, so he is a great addition to our roster.”

Ferrucci will be teamed at AJ Foyt Racing with Benjamin Pedersen, who finished fifth in the 2022 Indy Lights standings. The team has yet to specify the number for Pedersen’s entry, which will be fielded out of its Indianapolis race shop.

Foyt’s two full-time drivers last season were Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood, who is moving to Andretti Autosport.