Manor’s Will Stevens is hoping his will be a memorable week in Monaco – and not just because the Arsenal fan began it playing football alongside William Gallas.
The 23-year-old is one of three British drivers on the grid in Monte Carlo, along with reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.
This is just Stevens’ fifth Grand Prix start and one which he prepared for by swapping the track for the pitch, when he took part in the annual pre-Monaco charity match at the Stade Louis II.
Novak Djokovic captained an all-star side against one made up of Formula One drivers, which included the Brit as well as the likes of Felipe Massa and Sergio Perez.
Im about to play a match for Prince Albert team as captain and wearing . Probably good idea to warm up! pic.twitter.com/73tfPD8U7A
— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) May 19, 2015
Former France international Gallas joined the drivers and, while they may have lost 3-1, it is an experience Stevens will not forget any time soon.
“It was pretty surreal,” he said. “It was actually nice to play football last night. I think it’s a really nice thing to do.
“I think it is cool when people from different sports come and do it as well. I was playing at right-back for a bit so I had to cope with (Djokovic) for a while.
“Considering he is probably double my height, it was a little bit tricky but I was alright.
“(Playing alongside Gallas was good), especially as I am huge Arsenal fan. I know he left and went to Spurs, but I think it is really cool.”
— Will Stevens (@WillStevens_) May 19, 2015
The charity match provided some light relief ahead of Stevens’ first F1 race in Monaco.
Little is expected of Manor given they have yet to get a point this season, but he wants to capitalise on any incidents up the field at the Circuit de Monaco.
“Coming into Monaco, I think everyone knows there is potential for things to get mixed up,” Stevens said.
“If there is any race this year where we can be closer to the back of the field, it is going to be here.
“Coming off Barcelona with hard tyres and here with the supersoft, that’s going to help us as well. I am really excited to get out there.
— Manor F1 Team (@ManorF1Team) May 20, 2015
“Obviously last year was great for the team and if there is a bit of controversy during the race, we will be there to hopefully pick up the pieces.
“It is a great event and it is great to be here. I am really looking forward to it.”
Mercedes announced that reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton has signed a three-year contract extension, ending speculation about his future with the German Formula One team.
Including win bonuses, the 30-year-old Briton stands to make between 30 and 40 million euros per year having won last season’s world drivers’ championship and is dominating the current campaign with victory in three of the five races so far.
Hamilton’s contract had been due to expire at the end of the season, but the Briton says he is happy to race for Mercedes until 2018.
— MERCEDES AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) May 20, 2015
There had been rumours that Hamilton would join Ferrari to replace Kimi Raikkonen in 2016, before Hamilton committed to Mercedes.
“Mercedes is my home and I couldn’t be happier to be staying here for another three years,” said Hamilton.
“This is a company filled with real passionate racers, from the board room to the factory floor, and an incredible hunger to win. Even after the success of last year, that hunger is greater than ever – and it’s the same for me, too.”
Having replaced seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher at Mercedes in 2013, Hamilton has followed the example of team-mate Nico Rosberg, who signed a three-year extension last year.
“My current Mercedes is the best car I have driven in my career until now. I want more records and more points,” he said.
Hamilton has negotiated his own contract after protracted talks, which delayed the process as he read through the paperwork.
Lewis Hamilton signs a three-year deal with Mercedes only after they agree to get him the same shiny jacket as Nico. pic.twitter.com/zD3yVE3cAX
— NOW TV Sport (@NOWTVSport) May 20, 2015
“Continuity is one of the key factors for delivering success in Formula One and we now have that in place,” said Mercedes’ motorsport team boss Christian Wolff.
“Lewis enjoyed an historic World Championship season with Mercedes-Benz last year and it was a priority for this season to renew his contract for the next term. We have taken the right amount of time with the process and not rushed ourselves.
“The result is a strong agreement that will enhance Lewis’ association with the Mercedes-Benz brand, and that recognises and respects the market value of Lewis and of Mercedes in Formula One.”
Esteban Ocon will drive for Force India on the second day of in-season testing at the Circuit de Catalunya after a late driver change.
Pascal Wehrlein had been due to drive for Force India on Tuesday, with Nick Yelloly taking over on Wednesday.
However, the team was forced to put Yelloly in the car on the opening day due to Wehrlein suffering from a fever, and with the young German driving for Mercedes on day two he will be unable to run in the VJM08 this week.
Force India has therefore turned to 18-year-old Ocon, who was previously development driver at Lotus.
@OconEsteban will complete our test line-up this week when he drives the VJM08 tomorrow. Great opportunity for a very promising young talent
— Sahara Force India (@ForceIndiaF1) May 12, 2015
Ocon won last year’s FIA European F3 championship – beating Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen to the title – and marked his debut GP3 race weekend with victory in Barcelona.
Ocon is another driver affiliated with Mercedes, with the team announcing it would be providing support to his career last week, and also revealing an option to sign him as a “fully fledged Mercedes-Benz driver in the future”.