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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.

Renault: Speculation Palmer could be dropped for Malaysia ‘unfair’

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Renault Formula 1 chief Cyril Abiteboul has called speculation Jolyon Palmer could be dropped for the next race in Malaysia “unfair”, stressing there is a contract in place until the end of the season.

Renault announced on Friday it had signed Carlos Sainz Jr. on loan from Red Bull for the 2018 season to partner Nico Hulkenberg, leaving Palmer without a seat for next year.

The 2014 GP2 champion has struggled to make an impact in F1, scoring just a single point in 32 races, and looks unlikely to remain in the sport next year.

Speculation has been rife that Renault was looking to get Sainz in the car as early as the Malaysian Grand Prix in two weeks’ time as part of the deal to sign him.

Palmer was adamant on Thursday that his contract was firm until the end of the season, and Abiteboul backed this up, hitting back at the speculation.

“The reality is that Carlos will be in the car in Melbourne in 2019. Referring to the situation of Jo, it’s a speculation that we – him and the team – have had to live with for… I don’t know how many races,” Abiteboul said.

“Frankly it’s really difficult on Jo, and a bit unfair on Jo and the team. To a certain degree, it maybe has had a negative impact on his ongoing performance.

“Right now, what I see is that we have a car that is capable of scoring points in Singapore. That’s the focus and we have an ongoing contract with Jo until the end of the season.”

Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost said he was “not aware” of any possibility of Sainz leaving early for Renault, despite having Red Bull youngster Pierre Gasly ready to make the step up if required.

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

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.”

Alonso, Ricciardo, Verstappen and Sainz all get Monza grid drops

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Four Formula 1 drivers have been hit with grid penalties for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza after taking new power unit elements heading into the race weekend.

Fernando Alonso, Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr. will all lose places from their qualifying position, with the FIA confirming the penalties on Friday ahead of second practice.

Grid penalties have been a recurring theme for Alonso through 2017 amid ongoing struggles for McLaren’s engine partner, Honda, with a brand new power unit being taken on Friday to trigger a 35-place drop.

However, the ‘Spec 3.7’ power unit was only used in FP1 by Alonso before switching back to the ‘Spec 3.5’ unit for the remainder of the weekend. This was also raced with at Spa, with Alonso retiring after reporting an issue that Honda was unable to find.

McLaren will save the fresh power unit for the next race in Singapore where it stands a better chance of scoring points.

A similar tactic is being taken by Red Bull, which has also struggled for engine power so far this season with Renault, leading to growing frustration between the parties.

Max Verstappen will drop 15 places on the grid after Red Bull took a new MGU-H and Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) on Friday, while Ricciardo falls 20 positions, fitting a new MGU-H, ICE and turbocharger.

Finally, Carlos Sainz Jr. has taken his fifth MGU-H of the season, going beyond the yearly limit of four for the first time, warranting a 10-place grid drop.