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Singapore gets new four-year Formula 1 contract

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Formula 1 bosses have agreed to a new contract for the Singapore Grand Prix that ensures the race will remain on the calendar through to 2021.

F1 arrived in Singapore for the 10th running of the night race without a firm contract in place for 2018 or beyond, raising concerns about its future.

Bernie Ecclestone, F1’s former ringmaster, had long-stated he wanted a new, extensive deal for Singapore, but with the nearby Malaysian Grand Prix being scrapped and locals showing wavering support, a contract extension was far from certain.

After successful talks between the race promoters, the local government and F1’s new bosses in recent weeks, a new contract was announced in Singapore on Friday, running for another four years.

“The Singapore Grand Prix is a signature Formula 1 race and therefore we are very pleased that it will continue to feature on the calendar for a further four years,” F1 CEO and chairman Chase Carey said.

“The first ever night race in this sport is one of the most thrilling events of the year, taking place against the stunning backdrop of Marina Bay.

“The Singapore Grand Prix, the Singapore Tourism Board and the Singapore Government have all done an excellent job of making this an event that involves the whole city.

“We are looking forward to offering our continued support to make the next four years even more spectacular and exciting.”

The race contract extension is the first to have been struck by F1’s new management, which came into power back in January following Liberty Media’s acquisition of the sport.

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.