Sergio Perez to stay at Force India for 2018

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Sergio Perez.

Sergio Perez will remain at Force India for a fifth successive season after it was announced he will race on with the British-based team in 2018.

The Mexican driver, who spent one season alongside Jenson Button at McLaren, is seventh in the standings ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix.

Perez would have been interested in a move to Renault next year, but Carlos Sainz’s switch to the French team – which was confirmed here earlier this week – left him with little option other than to stay at Force India.

The 27-year-old will be partnered by Esteban Ocon once more despite the fall-out from last month’s Belgian Grand Prix in which the Frenchman accused his team-mate of trying to kill him following two collisions.

“Staying with Sahara Force India was always my priority,” Perez said. “It’s a team that has allowed me to show my talents as a driver and I feel very happy here.

“I’m proud of everything we have already achieved together and I think there is more to come.

“The team has done an amazing job this year to develop the car and establish our position as the fourth best team in Formula One. In the end it was an easy decision to continue our journey together.”

Perez’s Force India team, based at Silverstone, have impressed again this season. Despite their limited financial muscle they appear on course to finish fourth in the constructors’ standings – behind only Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull – for a second straight year.

“Sergio has played an important role in our success story over the last few years,” Force India boss Vijay Mallya said. “Since joining us in 2014, he has matured to become one of the quickest and most consistent drivers on the grid.

“His track record speaks for itself as the most successful Force India driver ever with four podiums.

“Alongside Esteban, retaining Sergio gives us stability going into next season and one of the most exciting driver pairings in Formula One.”

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Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel grabs vital pole position at Singapore Grand Prix

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Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel came from nowhere to seize pole position at the Singapore Grand Prix as he threw down the gauntlet to championship leader Lewis Hamilton on Saturday.

Vettel, who had been anonymous in practice, timed a record 1min 39.491sec at the floodlit Marina Bay street circuit ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen will start fourth with Hamilton, who leads Vettel by just three points in the standings, fifth ahead of his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

Verstappen had looked set to become the first teenager on pole position but Vettel stormed through with two blistering laps in the final session to snatch it by three-tenths.

“Yesterday was difficult, this afternoon was difficult but tonight the car just came alive,” said Vettel, who looked surprised by his own performance.

Qualifying has often been crucial in Singapore, where seven of the nine races so far have been won by the driver who started from pole position.

The drivers had got off to a slow start after a fire in a Porsche Carrera Cup race before qualifying left oil on the track at Turn 20, making driving conditions treacherous.

“The oil seems everywhere in the final sector,” complained Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat, as the early times were far slower than those seen in practice.

Williams driver Felipe Massa slid heavily into the barriers, puncturing a rear tyre, and he was one of the five to drop out in Q1 as Red Bull’s Verstappen and Ricciardo led the timings.

The Ferraris set a quick pace at the start of Q2 as first Raikkonen and then Vettel went top, before Verstappen returned to the head of the table with a time of 1:40.379.

Verstappen and Ricciardo led the Ferrari pair and Hamilton into the top 10 shoot-out and the Dutch teenager soon gunned to 1:39.814 – before being eclipsed by Vettel’s 1:39.669.

Verstappen made a hash of his final lap and Vettel lowered his time to 1:39.491, afterwards whooping and shouting to his team-mates in Italian as he celebrated pole.

Provided by AFP Sport

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Valtteri Bottas signs new one-year deal at Mercedes

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Valtteri Bottas.

Lewis Hamilton will be partnered alongside Valtteri Bottas for a second season after Mercedes confirmed the Finnish driver has been retained for next year.

Bottas, who replaced defending world champion Nico Rosberg at Mercedes following his shock retirement, has won two races this year and heads into Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix third in the standings, 41 points adrift of championship leader Hamilton.

The 28-year-old Finn has agreed a one-year deal, which allows Mercedes to keep their options open with Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen both contracted at Red Bull until the end of 2018.

Hamilton’s deal with Mercedes also expires at the end of next year, but the Englishman is expected to sign a new long-term contract with the team.

Bottas, drafted in by Mercedes following Rosberg’s decision to walk away from the sport only five days after he won the championship, has steadily impressed in his opening year. The cool-headed Finn also provides the team with much-needed stability following three years of bitter in-fighting between Hamilton and Rosberg.

Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda revealed he had spoken to Sebastian Vettel about the German’s future plans, but following the announcement of his new three-year extension with Ferrari last month, Bottas was always likely to be retained.

“We gave Valtteri a big challenge this year by joining the team at the eleventh hour, stepping up to the forefront of F1 and pairing with the sport’s best driver as his team-mate,” Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said on Wednesday. “With that in mind, his results have been probably even more impressive.

“There have been ups and downs – more ups, fewer downs – and some great highlights like his two race wins in Russia and Austria. Overall, the balance of his performances and his upward trajectory made it a no-brainer for us to continue with him into 2018.

“For our team, the bonus factors are the respect and sportsmanship that have grown between our two drivers. The chemistry and dynamic between Valtteri and Lewis work and are what we need to take the fight to our competitors.”

Mercedes lead rivals Ferrari in the constructors’ championship by 62 points with only seven rounds remaining – and despite Singapore expected to suit the Italian team’s car – are odds-on to secure a fourth consecutive title.

Bottas, who spent four seasons at Williams before his switch to Mercedes, secured his maiden pole position at the third round of the championship in Bahrain before landing his first win one race later in Russia. He also won the Austrian Grand Prix in June, but has been unable to keep pace with Hamilton in recent races.

“I am honoured and proud to continue to work with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport in 2018 and to remain part of the Mercedes family,” Bottas said. “Together, we continue to grow stronger day by day, and by keeping up our hard work I believe the sky is the limit.

“Since joining the team in January, I’ve enjoyed every day working with them. The welcome and the support from every team member and all the fans has been invaluable.

“As a driver, I’ve been able to learn and grow massively, and we have already enjoyed some really good moments this season that I will never forget. Partnering Lewis has also been really good, and I’m enjoying the respect we have and the will to push this team forward together.

“However, there’s always room for improvement and I still have not shown my full potential. I will continue to work hard on and off the track, to further improve my driving, get even better results and show that putting their trust in me was the right decision.”

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