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Renault F1 confirms loan signing of Carlos Sainz Jr. for 2018

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Renault has confirmed the signing of Carlos Sainz Jr. from Scuderia Toro Rosso for the 2018 Formula 1 season, announced on Friday in Singapore.

Sainz, 23, will partner Nico Hulkenberg at Renault next year after three seasons with Toro Rosso, joining on loan from Red Bull, which retains an option to recall him in the future.

The move was agreed as part of the deal for McLaren and Toro Rosso to swap engine supplies for 2018, linking up with Renault and Honda respectively, also anounced on Friday.

“I’m very happy to be joining Renault Sport Formula One Team. To be a Formula 1 driver for a manufacturer team is an honor and I hope to reward Renault’s faith in me with my very best performances on track,” Sainz said.

“The trajectory of Renault Sport Formula One Team is exciting and I’m proud to join at such an important time in their history. I am looking forward to working with everyone at Enstone and Viry, and driving alongside Nico Hülkenberg.

“I have worked closely with Renault in Formula 1 and previously in motorsport, so I know their motivation and capabilities.

“This is the start of a very exciting new chapter in my career. I would like to say thank you to Red Bull for all their confidence and support and for allowing me to take this opportunity.

“Last but not least, I especially want to thank all the people that work in Toro Rosso. They are a fantastic team of professionals and I wish them the best for the future.”

Sainz has enjoyed backing from Red Bull throughout his racing career, moving into F1 in 2015 with Toro Rosso after winning the Formula Renault 3.5 title.

Despite being put in the shade by the hype surrounding teammate Max Verstappen, Sainz impressed throughout his debut campaign and established himself as team leader following Verstappen’s promotion and Daniil Kvyat’s arrival.

Sainz caused a stir over the Austrian Grand Prix weekend earlier this year when he said a fourth year at Toro Rosso in 2018 was “unlikely”, only for Red Bull’s bosses to remind him that he remained under contract for next year.

With Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo locked in at the senior team leaving Sainz no room to move up, Red Bull admitted it would be open to letting him leave should the right offer come along.

Despite being linked with moves for Fernando Alonso and Robert Kubica to partner Hulkenberg, Renault settled on Sainz as its top target for a 2018 seat to replace the struggling Jolyon Palmer.

Crunch talks with McLaren over the Italian Grand Prix weekend led to Sainz coming into the picture, with Renault using him as leverage for agreeing to end its Toro Rosso contract early so it could join up with Honda.

The deal also paves the way for Red Bull junior Pierre Gasly to move up to F1 next year with Toro Rosso, having won the GP2 title last year and spent this season racing in Japan’s Super Formula series.

Gasly is poised to partner Kvyat, although it has been suggested that Honda youngster Nobuharu Matsushita could be placed at Toro Rosso should he amass the required FIA super license points before the end of the season.

Formula 1 2018 – Confirmed Drivers and Teams

Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas
Ferrari: Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen
Red Bull: Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen
Force India: TBA, TBA
Williams: TBA, TBA
McLaren: Stoffel Vandoorne, TBA
Toro Rosso: TBA, TBA
Haas: Romain Grosjean, Kevin Magnussen
Renault: Carlos Sainz Jr, Nico Hulkenberg
Sauber: TBA, TBA

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.