Vettel still considered for Porsche Hypercar seat amid Le Mans snub

Vettel still considered for Porsche Hypercar seat amid Le Mans snub

Sebastian Vettel’s chances of racing in the Porsche Hypercar in the future are still up despite the decision by the German brand to sideline the Formula 1 champion out of its driver line-up for the Le Mans 24 Hours this year.

Porsche’s LMDh factory director Urs Kuratle says that the ‘the book is not closed’ and ‘situation was just not right’ for the four-time Formula 1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel to race for the German manufacturer in this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours.

The release of the final entry list for the FIA WEC French endurance classic on Monday confirmed that Vettel will not be a part of Porsche’s lineup for its No. 4 car, despite his much-publicised test in a 963 at Motorland Aragon in March.

Porsche had hinted in the lead-up to the test that Vettel – who turned 118 laps of the Spanish track as part of Porsche’s pre-Le Mans preparations – was a serious consideration for a slot in its third Hypercar entry at Le Mans.

However, finally it was decided that Mathieu Jaminet, who was the only driver previously nominated for the No. 4 car, would be partnered by Porsche IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship regulars Nick Tandy and Felipe Nasr.

Speaking with the media at Spa-Francorchamps on Thursday, Kuratle explained that the situation was just not right for him to make his Le Mans debut next month. He was light on specific details but confirmed that there had been discussions about a Le Mans drive for Vettel. It didn’t work out for some reasons he said simply.

“We had discussions and it didn’t work for this year’s Le Mans for some reasons and that’s it,” the Porsche motorsport boss said. “It’s partly how you can prepare it, and it didn’t come together. The time in the car would have been limited, and there’s not much more we could have done with the test ban we have.

“I’m not blaming the test ban, but in the situation we are in, we are not able to have a third car here [at Spa] for example like we used to in the past. The situation was just not right.”

However, Kuratle said Vettel “could be” part of the brand’s Hypercar/GTP effort in the future, though currently there are no plans in place for him to test the 963 once more.

“The book is not closed, but it’s also not defined how it continues,” he confirmed. “It’s not because we don’t want, or he doesn’t want, simply because the discussions have not been done.”

With no Vettel for Le Mans, Porsche has opted to compete with an identical trio to last year in its third 963, with Mathieu Jaminet, Nick Tandy and Felipe Nasr set to share the wheel of the #4.

Like last year, Kuratle admitted that the toughest part of the decision-making process was choosing which driver would be named as the nominated reserve for Le Mans.

Porsche has 10 contracted full-time GTP and Hypercar drivers, but only nine seats to fill for Le Mans, meaning one driver will be forced to sit out the 24-hour race again. This year Dane Cameron is serving as the reserve, after Matt Campbell took on that role for the centenary race.

“The easy bit is that we have four of the best drivers in the USA in the IMSA team, and to bring those guys over to Le Mans, that’s a no-brainer,” Kuratle said. “That car, with these guys, will be one of the best driver line-ups in the complete pitlane.

“The not-easy part is that you have to decide who is not driving. You have to announce who is the one not driving, and all 10 have the experience and the possibility to perform really well at Le Mans.

“But, at the end of the day, we are not expecting a Nobel Prize for this decision. We can’t forget with Felipe we have a Daytona winner, and with Tandy we have a Le Mans winner already.”

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