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Sebastian Vettel expected to be Lewis Hamilton’s main 2019 foe

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When asked who would likely be his primary challenger in 2019, Lewis Hamilton told Formula1.com “I would imagine it’s going to be Sebastian (Vettel). And Valtteri (Bottas) alongside me.

There is a good reason for that assessment. Hamilton and Vettel spent the entire season either first or second in the standings. Vettel held the top spot six of the first 10 weeks; Hamilton led the series the other four weeks and the average difference between first and second was 9.2 points.

Then came Germany.

(Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Vettel crashed on Lap 51 while leading – handing the top spot over to Bottas for one lap before Hamilton took command for the final 15 circuits. The 25 points lost dropped Vettel from top rung of the championship by eight points to the second rung by 17. He would never recover and after the Italian Grand Prix, race 14 of 21, Vettel continuously slipped further behind Hamilton.

The only race after Italy in which Vettell finished ahead of Hamilton was in Mexico and by then, the championship was decided. Vettel finished second in the Mexican GP; Hamilton was only six points back in fourth.

If not Vettel, Hamilton is keeping his eye on Max Verstappen.

“They’ve got a great car,” Hamilton said. “They’ve been very strong at the end of the year, they’ve got a new engine next year. Will it be able to compete with ours? I hope so, because that would be epic if Red Bull could really start to mingle with us a bit more, weekend in, weekend out.

“They’ve got to obviously improve on their reliability, which has been a big downfall for them this year. So there’s lots of areas [to work on], but I really wish them all the best – and we are down for the competition that’s for sure.”

As Vettel was slipping behind, Verstappen was catching up. He outscored the Ferrari driver in the second half of the season and came within one point of securing third in the driver’s championship behind Kimi Raikkonen.

Of course, overtaking Mercedes is going to be a challenge for everyone. They have won the last five championships – four for Hamilton and one for Nico Rosberg. Before that, Red Bull Racing and Renault were on a four-year winning streak with Vettel behind the wheel.

Points Standings by the Week

Week Grand Prix Leader Second Third
1 Australian Vettel Hamilton (-7) Raikkonen (-10)
2 Bahrain Vettel Hamilton (-17) Bottas (-28)
3 Chinese Vettel Hamilton (-9) Bottas (-14)
4 Azerbaijan Hamilton Vettel (-4) Raikkonen (-22)
5 Spanish Hamilton Vettel (-17) Bottas (-37)
6 Monaco Hamilton Vettel (-14) Ricciardo (-38)
7 Canadian Vettel Hamilton (-1) Bottas (-35)
8 French Hamilton Vettel (-14) Ricciardo (-49)
9 Austrian Vettel Hamilton (-1) Raikkonen (-45)
10 British Vettel Hamilton (-8) Raikkonen (-55)
11 German Hamilton Vettel (-17) Raikkonen (-57)
12 Hungarian Hamilton Vettel (-24) Raikkonen (-57)
13 Belgian Hamilton Vettel (-17) Raikkonen (-85)
14 Italian Hamilton Vettel (-30) Raikkonen (-92)
15 Singapore Hamilton Vettel (-40) Raikkonen (-107)
16 Russian Hamilton Vettel (-50) Bottas (-117)
17 Japanese Hamilton Vettel (-67) Bottas (-124)
18 United States Hamilton Vettel (-70) Raikkonen (-125)
19 Mexican Hamilton Vettel (-64) Raikkonen (-122)
20 Brazilian Hamilton Vettel (-81) Raikkonen (-132)
21 Abu Dhabi Hamilton Vettel (-88) Raikkonen (-157)

IMSA’s 50th Anniversary Celebration: Why Sebring is so special to Bobby Rahal

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Bobby Rahal has driven in some of the biggest races in the world, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Rolex 24 Hours and, of course, winning the Indianapolis 500 as a driver in 1986 and in 2004 as a team owner.

But winning the 12 Hours of Sebring two years in a row (1987 and 1988), Rahal feels, is right up there in terms of his greatest accomplishments as a race car driver.

As IMSA celebrates its 50th anniversary, Rahal reflected on what racing at Sebring International Raceway has meant to him:

“To me, Sebring is the ultimate endurance race. Not as long as Daytona or Le Mans, but the demands put on a car and driver at Sebring are highly unusual.

“My father raced at Sebring in the late 60’s. To win that race two years in a row really meant something to me.

“While we’ve won a lot of other races, we’ve won just about everywhere, you name it. But for me personally, winning at Sebring those two years in a row was very special.”

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