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Palmer adamant he will finish F1 season with Renault amid Sainz rumors

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Jolyon Palmer is adamant he will see out the 2017 Formula 1 season as a Renault driver despite speculation he could be replaced by Carlos Sainz Jr. for the next race in Malaysia.

Palmer has struggled to make an impact with Renault since making his F1 debut at the start of 2016, scoring just a single point through 32 grand prix starts.

Renault is widely expected to announce the signing of Sainz in the coming days as part of the wider deal that will see it shift a customer engine supply from Toro Rosso to McLaren for 2018.

Reports leading up to this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix claimed that Sainz could even make the switch to Renault for the race at Sepang, taking place on October 1, with Palmer being dropped.

When asked about the speculation in Thursday’s FIA press conference at Marina Bay, Palmer insisted he would stay in the car until the end of the season as he remained under contract.

“I have a contract. I’ve got seven more races this year,” Palmer said.

“There have been suggestions for the past 35 races that I might not be at the next one, or in the next few, so this is nothing new for me. It’s water off a duck’s back now.

“I’ll be in Malaysia. I’ll be racing until Abu Dhabi. I’ve already said the same.”

With F1 seats for 2018 being snapped up fast, Palmer appears to have few options to stay in the sport if Renault does drop him, but the Briton is relaxed about his future.

“I don’t care too much to talk about it,” Palmer said. “I know what’s happening. I think there will be an announcement at some point in the future, not too long.

“For me, I’m excited about the future. I haven’t thought too much, but I’m excited for what’s to come.”

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.