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Sainz, Palmer, Vandoorne all take best F1 finishes in Singapore GP

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Carlos Sainz Jr., Jolyon Palmer and Stoffel Vandoorne all capitalized on chaos at the front to claim their best Formula 1 finishes in Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix.

A start-line crash between Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen combined with a wet first half of the race presented a golden opportunity to the midfield runners in Singapore, with Sainz coming out on top in fourth place.

Trailing only Lewis Hamilton, Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas, Sainz capped off a memorable weekend in Singapore that had already seen him be confirmed as a Renault driver for 2018 by charging to fourth place at the checkered flag.

The result saw Sainz better his previous best finish of sixth in F1, something he managed on three occasions (USA 2016, Brazil 2016, Monaco 2017).

“Wow, what a day, what a result! I’d say this is probably my best day in Formula 1 up until now,” Sainz said.

“After a weekend with so much media attention, to put together a perfect weekend and finish the race in P4 is just amazing. To start the race on intermediate tires, then switch to the supersoft – where I struggled a bit during the first laps – and then make it to the end without losing positions is just the perfect way to celebrate a difficult weekend. It’s definitely one I will always remember.

“I had my flight booked to go back home tonight, but I’m definitely canceling this – we need to celebrate this excellent result altogether, this team have also done an amazing job this weekend.”

The man Sainz will replace at Renault next year, Jolyon Palmer, will also be in a celebratory mood after he dodged the minefield ahead to finish sixth, marking his first points since Malaysia last year.

“I’m so happy, it’s been a long time coming but today everything fell into place,” Palmer said.

“It was a tricky race with the drama at the start and the heavy rain but the circumstances put us in a good place to score some points.

“We had a good strategy, good pit stops and the car was good in the wet conditions. The next race should be even better.”

Palmer spent the closing stages fending off McLaren driver Vandoorne, who bettered his previous best effort of P10 to cross the line seventh.

“To race under the rain at the beginning was definitely not easy, so my main focus was just to stay out of trouble, which we managed to do. From that point on, I just managed my own race,” Vandoorne said.

“I think seventh place was really the best it was going to get for me today. Sixth was perhaps on the cards at one point, but it didn’t work out at my second pit-stop.

“After that, I just focused on getting everything I could from the car and maximizing the performance. Getting a couple of points means we finish our weekend on a high.”

All three drivers were the sole points-scorers for their teams, with Daniil Kvyat, Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso retiring from the race.

Penske: No room for Patrick in Indy 500 lineup. Ganassi? OK

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) Roger Penske has no room in his Indianapolis 500 lineup for Danica Patrick.

“The Captain” has a hunch where Patrick’s Indy comeback will take her in May – with Chip Ganassi.

“I sent him a note and said, `Congratulations. Danica better be driving your car at Indy because unfortunately she’s not driving for us,”‘ Penske said, laughing.

The 35-year-old Patrick said this week she will race only in the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 next year and then she will walk away from racing. Patrick is the only woman to have led laps in both the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500. Patrick ran the Indy 500 from 2005 through 2011. Her highest finish was third in 2009, and she was the first woman to lead laps in the race when she paced the field for 19 trips around the Brickyard as a rookie.

Penske has a full field for Indy with Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and 2017 series champion Josef Newgarden racing as fulltime entries and three-time winner Helio Castroneves returns on a one-shot deal to try and win a fourth.

Chip Ganassi Racing is the likely ride at Indy. Ganassi has room to field additional cars – he’s scaling down from four full-time cars to two next year – and would give Patrick a car capable of winning. Ganassi said Friday he has met with Patrick and called her “Danica Double” a great idea.

Penske said Patrick and Ganassi, who has Ed Jones and IndyCar great Scott Dixon in his lineup, would be a perfect pair.

“I think that’s a great seat for her,” Penske said Saturday. “That’s a great team. They’re the ones that’s always been competitive there. I take my hat off that she wants to continue to go back to open wheel. That’s going to be terrific for the sport and there’s going to be a lot of interest around the country.”

Patrick was highly marketable early in her career even though wins were rare. She won the pole for the Daytona 500 in 2013, but finished 24th in the standings the last two seasons. She won her only IndyCar race in 2008, in Japan. Patrick never scored a top-five finish in NASCAR and had only seven top 10s (though she led laps at the Daytona 500) in 189 career starts.

Penske, a 16-time winner as a car owner of the Indy 500, said Patrick would return to IndyCar a better driver.

“I think she’s going to come back to IndyCar a lot tougher having run in NASCAR,” he said. “I think she’s going to be someone that, in a good car, is going to pick it up. She’s got plenty of time to practice.”

Team Penske won the owner championship Saturday in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series. Sam Hornish Jr., who won three IndyCar titles and the 2006 Indy 500, said the sport would welcome back Patrick.

“She’s probably going to have a better shot at Indy because of what she’s done the last five years,” Hornish said.

Patrick has not revealed the team she’ll race for but surely a package deal with the same team and same sponsor for the biggest races in motorsports would make her again racing’s most marketable driver.

“I think it’s a great way for her to say, hey, I’m here, I’ve done it, I’m going to go back to the two biggest races and see if I can’t get out on top,” Penske said.

Penske can win a NASCAR championship with Brad Keselowski in Sunday’s Cup race.

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More AP Auto Racing: http://racing.ap.org