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Sebastian Vettel signs new three-year Ferrari F1 contract

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Sebastian Vettel will remain with Ferrari until the end of the 2020 Formula 1 season after agreeing a new three-year contract, announced by the team on Saturday.

Vettel joined Ferrari in 2015 and currently leads the F1 drivers’ championship, but was out of contract at the end of the season.

Ferrari announced just after final practice for the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa that Vettel’s new contract had been agreed, lasting for another three years.

“Scuderia Ferrari has extended its technical and racing agreement with driver Sebastian Vettel for the 2018, 2019 and 2020 racing seasons of the Formula 1 world championship,” a brief statement from Ferrari reads.

Vettel had been linked with a possible move away from Ferrari for 2018, with Mercedes a possible destination given Valtteri Bottas was also out of contract at the end of the year.

Recent speculation suggested that Vettel was chasing a one-year extension of his Ferrari contract so that he could be a free agent in 2019 when the market is set to be more fluid, only to ultimately settle on a three-year deal.

Ferrari will therefore race with the same line-up for a fourth straight season in 2018, having confirmed earlier this week that Kimi Raikkonen would be staying on for another season.

Vettel has enjoyed his strongest season with Ferrari to date in 2017, winning four races to lead the drivers’ championship heading into the final nine rounds of the season.

Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.