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Sebastian Vettel: ‘No common desire’ with Ferrari to remain together

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MARANELLO, Italy — Four-time Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel is leaving Ferrari at the end of the year by mutual consent.

“In order to get the best possible results in this sport, it’s vital for all parties to work in perfect harmony,” Vettel said Tuesday. “The team and I have realized that there is no longer a common desire to stay together beyond the end of this season.”

Vettel’s existing contract earns him $40 million per year.

“Financial matters have played no part in this joint decision,” Vettel, 32, said. “That’s not the way I think when it comes to making certain choices and it never will be.”

SURPRISE CAMEOVettel makes competitive sim racing debut in Legends Trophy

The German driver joined Ferrari in 2015 to replace Fernando Alonso but was unable to add to the four consecutive world championships that he won at Red Bull Racing from 2010-13.

The F1 season was suspended in March because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, three days before the first scheduled race in Australia.

Of Vettel’s 53 career wins, only 14 came with Ferrari, including only one last year.

Vettel led the championship at the halfway stage in 2017 and 2018, but a series of clumsy mistakes – including one from pole position and another while comfortably leading the race – proved costly.

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

The speedy rise to ascension of Leclerc at Ferrari proved difficult to handle for Vettel last year. Despite being in his debut season with Ferrari, and only his second in F1, Leclerc won more races than Vettel and even beat six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton in pole positions (seven to Hamilton’s five).

It led to tension within Ferrari, which reached a breaking point in November when the drivers crashed into each other at the Brazilian GP.

Leclerc made a clean overtaking move on Vettel down the inside, and Vettel tried to reclaim his position by moving on the outside of Leclerc’s car. They touched wheels and both cars went out of the race. This prompted an angry reaction from Ferrari management, especially as they were contesting only fourth place in the race.

Vettel finished a dismal fifth overall in the championship race, beaten by Leclerc and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who finished third behind the Mercedes pair of Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton.

Leclerc, just as quick and 10 years younger than Vettel, was clearly seen as the Italian manufacturer’s future. He signed a new deal until the end of 2024 while Vettel’s was still on hold.

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto gave his backing to Vettel last month, when saying “we appreciate him so much.”

But negotiations stalled in recent weeks.

“It was not an easy decision to reach, given Sebastian’s worth as a driver and as a person,” Binotto said. “There was no specific reason that led to this decision, apart from the common and amicable belief that the time had come to go our separate ways in order to reach our respective objectives.”

Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

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NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?