After retiring from Formula One after 2022, Sebastian Vettel has left the door open for a possible return to racing, sparking speculation about his next move.
Jota team boss Dieter Gass recently confirmed in an interview with Sport Bild that talks are underway with Vettel about a possible Le Mans 24 Hours in 2024.
F1 drivers who have competed at Le Mans
The prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans has long been a proving ground for racing legends, offering a different set of challenges to other motorsport such as Formula 1. In recent years, there has been a noticeable trend of modern Formula 1 drivers making the leap to Le Mans, highlighting the growing cross-pollination between different racing disciplines.
Fernando Alonso is perhaps the most prominent recent example. The two-time F1 World Champion took a break from F1 to pursue the elusive Triple Crown of motorsport: winning the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indianapolis 500 and the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Alonso was successful at Le Mans, winning with Toyota. His participation has attracted enormous media attention, acting as a bridge between the dedicated audiences of F1 and endurance racing.
There are several factors contributing to this growing trend. One key factor is the allure of the Triple Crown – the unofficial achievement of winning three of the oldest and most prestigious races in motorsport; the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indy 500 and Le Mans 24.
With Graham Hill being the only driver to have achieved this feat, it is a tantalising challenge for drivers such as Alonso and Juan Pablo Montoya, who have won two of the three events. This milestone is particularly appealing to drivers who have already established a rich legacy in F1 and are looking for new mountains to climb.
Challenge of endurance racing
But while the change is fascinating, it’s not without its challenges. The cars used at Le Mans have very different handling and performance characteristics to those used in F1. Adapting to these changes while maintaining peak performance over 24 hours is no small feat. In addition, Le Mans is a team event where drivers share the car, making the interpersonal dynamics more complex than in F1, where the focus is on individual performance.
Despite these challenges, the trend shows no signs of abating. At a time when talk of Sebastian Vettel’s possible move to Le Mans is making headlines, it is clear that the crossover between F1 and Le Mans is becoming increasingly common.
Drivers like Nico Hülkenberg, who won Le Mans while still competing in F1, have proven that it’s possible to excel in both disciplines.
Vettel: “A valuable asset for any team”
Sam Hignett, the Team Principal of the respected British Jota Porsche team, has given an insight into the current discussions to bring Sebastian Vettel to the 24, and confirmed that talks with Vettel are indeed underway.
“We are talking to Seb. There are discussions, but nothing has been decided yet,” said Sam Hignett, team boss of the British Jota Porsche racing team last week.
Jota senior figure Dieter Gass most recently also confirmed in an interview with Sport Bild this week.
“Discussions are underway, signalling mutual interest on both sides. As long as we can agree on terms that are mutually beneficial, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t work together,” explained the 60-year-old Gass.
He continued: “It’s no secret that we’d be delighted to have Sebastian Vettel as part of our team. He is an exceptional talent and would be our trump card,”
The former head of Audi Motorsport was reluctant to reveal how far the talks had progressed, but confirmed that the two parties had been in contact for some time.
“There have always been rumours about Sebastian in various racing series and we’ve been keeping a close eye on the situation. When the opportunity arose, we didn’t hesitate,” said Gass.
Gass stressed that Jota are unlikely to be the only team vying for Vettel’s services.
“Sebastian would be a valuable asset to any racing team, so I’m sure we’re not the only ones considering him,” said Gass.
He added that a driver of Vettel’s calibre would “contribute immensely” to any race series, especially one like Le Mans where “interest is still growing”.
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