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What’s next for Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari after their impending F1 split?

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Sebastian Vettel might walk away from Ferrari after the 2020 season without delivering the Formula One title the proud Italian team so desperately wants.

The question now becomes where the four-time world champion will head next season and who will replace him at one of the series’ most legendary and successful teams?

McLaren driver Carlos Sainz Jr. and Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo are two of the names widely touted as possible replacements for Ferrari.

SURPRISE CAMEOVettel makes competitive sim racing debut in Legends Trophy

Sainz Jr., 25, is the son of two-time world rally champion Carlos Sainz. The Spanish driver finished a credible sixth last season, showing great consistency and good racecraft.

Ricciardo, 30, had a dismal first season with Renault, finishing in ninth. But the Australian driver proved his ability at Red Bull Racing, winning seven races and outperforming Vettel when they were paired together in 2014 (he had three wins while Vettel was winless).

Fernando Alonso returning to F1 and Ferrari would be an outside bet. The two-time F1 champion is 38 and had 11 victories with Ferrari from 2010-14.

Having raced the Indianapolis 500, the Dakar Rally and won the 24 Hours of LeMans and Rolex 24 sports car classics, Alonso still is considered among the world’s best drivers in pure ability. If Sainz. Jr. joins Ferrari, it would open the door for Alonso at McLaren.

The options seem less clear for Vettel, who is leaving at the end of year by mutual consent.

McLaren and Renault could be destinations for Vettel, who has 53 victories, 57 pole positions and 120 podium finishes in 240 starts from 2007-19. Even at 32, retirement would be an option for a driver who reportedly made $40 million last year.

The German driver joined Ferrari in 2015 to replace Fernando Alonso but was unable to add to his four consecutive world titles at Red Bull Racing from 2010-13.

Observers expected him to break Michael Schumacher’s record of seven F1 titles.

Now that is within reach of world champion Lewis Hamilton, who has six. Hamilton’s rise with Mercedes has been mirrored by Vettel’s gradual slide at Ferrari.

Vettel had ample chances to win Ferrari’s first world title since Kimi Raikkonen in 2007. He led the championship at the halfway stage in 2017 and 2018, but a series of clumsy mistakes – unbefitting a driver of his vast experience – proved costly.

At Singapore in 2017, he launched off pole position and tried to cut off Max Verstappen’s Red Bull, causing a multicar crash that Hamilton avoided to win the GP and reclaim the championship lead.

At the German GP in 2018, Vettel on course to a win at Hockenheim. Holding a comfortable lead and with Hamilton some distance behind, Vettel misjudged a routine turn and crashed into the barriers, again gifting Hamilton a win and the championship momentum.

Last year, the pressure appeared to affect Vettel’s judgment. Furious that he was stripped of victory at the Canadian GP because of a time penalty, he theatrically grabbed the big No. 1 sign and parked it in front of his car, while moving the No. 2 in front of Hamilton’s Mercedes.

Vettel was also not helped by erratic and sometimes conflicting team orders, although by the same token his win last year at Singapore was because orders went in his favor over Charles Leclerc.

Vettel could improve his stock with a strong 2020, but it’s unclear when he will have the chance. Because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Formula One has yet to race in 2020. The series hopes to start the season with a July 5 doubleheader in Austria.

It’s possible that 15 to 18 of the originally scheduled 22 races will happen.

IndyCar: Tony Kanaan’s ‘Last Lap’ begins at Texas Motor Speedway

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The streak lives for Tony Kanaan. At least for one more race.

With Kanaan running only ovals during his farewell IndyCar season in 2020 – which has been dubbed the “Last Lap” – his record streak of 317 consecutive Indy-car starts was to end with the season opener March 15 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Fate had other plans. The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic forced the postponement of St. Pete (now the season finale in October) amid the shutdown of American sports.

IndyCar has made multiple changes to its 2020 schedule since then, and as a result, Kanaan is getting an opportunity to extend his “Ironman” streak.

The 2004 NTT IndyCar Series champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner is set for career start No. 318 on Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway – driving the No. 14 A.J. Foyt Racing Chevrolet alongside the team’s new full-season driver, Charlie Kimball, in the No. 4 Chevy.

“A lot of people ask me how I coped with the delay of the season,” Kanaan said Monday in an IndyCar Zoom news conference. “To be honest, I was mentally prepared already because my first real race was going to be the [Indy] 500. My mind was already set for May.

“I only really had to delay, what, a couple of weeks from what I was originally scheduled to do. For me, I think it wasn’t as hard as for the other guys that were already in St. Pete, ready to go.”

But while his mindset is locked in, Kanaan notes that he’s been out of a race car for eight months. In fact, as of Monday, he hadn’t sat in a car fitted with the new Aeroscreen cockpit protection system.

However, he is no stranger to the wild and woolly action at Texas. Ditto for his new-slash-old teammate, Kimball: The two competed together at Chip Ganassi Racing from 2014-17.

That experience is something A.J. Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt is grateful to have on his side.

“Going into this race, it’s huge,” Foyt said. “Especially with the one-day show, everything is accelerated, and going to a big track like Texas, having a guy like Charlie sit on the pole there [in 2017], knows his way around there, and obviously TK is very good there, as well.

“It’s a little bit of peace of mind for sure. Anything can happen, but the engineering group has been working really well together. We’re really hopeful we’re going to unload and get these guys some good cars out of the box. That’s the plan.”

Speaking of Kimball, the Californian is set to revive his full-time career in the sport after making just seven starts last season with Carlin.

He’s enjoyed his unexpected free time at home with his wife, Kathleen, and their two children, Hannah and newborn son Gordon, who arrived in March. But he’s grateful to get back in the car – and to accompany Tony on his ‘last lap.’

“We’re friends off the track,” Charlie said. “We train together. He’s gotten me addicted to riding a bicycle on a computer game, but also our wives are friends, and I think our families when we can get together and the kids can play, I think they’re going to interact really well. I’m excited for his daughter Nina to spend some time with our daughter.

“And the experience – I mean, he’s taught me things and I’ve learned a lot from him about how to restart on ovals and what you can and what you should and shouldn’t do and what he still does. That experience is invaluable to me to continue to learn and get better. I just feel really honored to be his teammate during his last lap, especially when we get back to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indy 500.”

The NTT IndyCar Series season begins Saturday night from Texas Motor Speedway with the Genesys 300 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. The race will also stream on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.