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Mercedes confirms Valtteri Bottas in F1 race seat for 2018

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Valtteri Bottas will continue to race with Mercedes in Formula 1 next year after putting pen to paper on a contract extension beyond the end of the 2017 season.

Formally announced by Mercedes on Wednesday ahead of this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix, Bottas’ confirmation has been expected for some time, with the finer details of his contract being sewn up recently.

Bottas joined Mercedes from Williams back in January following world champion Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement from F1, slotting in alongside Lewis Hamilton.

The Finn claimed his maiden grand prix victory in Russia before taking a second win in Austria, as well as scoring a further seven podium finishes this year.

While the contract extension comes as little surprise, Bottas was nevertheless delighted to make things official with Mercedes for 2018.

“I am honored and proud to continue to work with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport in 2018 and to remain part of the Mercedes family,” Bottas said.

“Together, we continue to grow stronger day by day, and by keeping up our hard work I believe the sky is the limit.

“Since joining the team in January, I’ve enjoyed every day working with them. The welcome and the support from every team member and all the fans has been invaluable.

“As a driver, I’ve been able to learn and grow massively, and we have already enjoyed some really good moments this season that I will never forget. I’ve been very impressed by the mentality, commitment and the team spirit this team holds. Partnering Lewis has also been really good, and I’m enjoying the respect we have and the will to push this team forward together.

“When the team hired me for the 2017 season, they took a leap of faith by putting their trust in my skills. This new contract for 2018 shows that I’ve earned that trust. I’m happy to have celebrated my first race wins in a Silver Arrow.

“However, there’s always room for improvement and I still have not shown my full potential. I will continue to work hard on and off the track, to further improve my driving, get even better results and show that putting their trust in me was the right decision.

“I want to thank all the board members, the people at the factories in Brackley and Brixworth as well as the race team and all the fans for their support and trust. It means a lot to me.”

Mercedes F1 chief Toto Wolff added: “We gave Valtteri a big challenge this year: joining the team at the eleventh hour, stepping up to the forefront of F1 and pairing with the sport’s best driver as his teammate. With that in mind, his results have been probably even more impressive.

“There have been ups and downs – more ups, fewer downs – and some great highlights like his two race wins in Russian and Austria. Overall, the balance of his performances and his upward trajectory made it a no-brainer for us to continue with him into 2018.

“For our team, the bonus factors are the respect and sportsmanship that have grown between our two drivers. The chemistry and dynamic between Valtteri and Lewis work and are what we need to take the fight to our competitors.”

The news marks another added piece of the driver market puzzle for 2018, as well as fuelling the fire for a hectic 2019 silly season when both Mercedes seats will be up for grabs.

Mercedes keeping ‘all options open’ with Bottas in F1 title bid

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Mercedes is not yet ready to ask Valtteri Bottas to abandon his outside bid for a maiden Formula 1 world title and support teammate Lewis Hamilton, with team boss Toto Wolff eager to “keep all options open”.

An impressive mid-season run of form has seen Bottas move into the fight at the front of the drivers’ championship with Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, with wins in Russia and Austria being underpinned by seven further podiums this year.

Bottas sits 41 points off Hamilton at the top of the standings with seven races to go, and while Ferrari appears to have thrown its support behind Vettel over Kimi Raikkonen, Mercedes will continue to aid both its drivers’ title bids.

“Ferrari has a situation where Sebastian has been scoring lots of points and Kimi, for whatever reason, not so much. Therefore, for them, it’s probably a little bit easier,” Wolff said.

“Our boys were pretty close together, until probably Spa. The situation is a little bit different now.

“But we would like to keep all options open and evaluate the situation in every race and see how it develops.”

Bottas continues to wait on news of a new Mercedes contract beyond the end of 2017, but Wolff once again re-affirmed the team’s expectation that the Finn will stay on for next season.

“It is a no-brainer for the team to continue with Valtteri. Within the team the dynamic between the drivers is important in order to extract the best possible result,” Wolff said.

“We’re very happy with Valtteri. It’s his first year with the team. He had very good moments like in Sochi, and he had more difficult races, like in Spa.

“But we are not manic depressive, and therefore stability is important and we want to keep him in the team and it’s just down to the contractual situation, the nailing it and signing it, and hopefully we can do this.”

‘No conflict’ between Mercedes, Ferrari over F1 oil burn ruling

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Chiefs from both Mercedes and Ferrari’s Formula 1 operations have denied any conflict or friction over the FIA’s technical directive reducing the level of oil burn permitted in power units, coming into force at last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.

The FIA clarified at the end of last month that any engine upgrades introduced between Monza and the end of the season would have to adhere to a new oil consumption limit of 0.9L/100km, reduced from 1.2L/100km.

Mercedes appeared to have got a jump on the rival Ferrari team by introducing its final major power unit update of the season at Spa, meaning it could race under the old allowance until the end of the season.

Reports in the Italian press claimed Mercedes had broken a gentleman’s agreement with Ferrari not to introduce any updates until the new limit came into force, but both teams denied there is any friction or significant advantage to be gained.

“We have no conflict. I don’t want to comment on this kind of thing,” Ferrari F1 chief Maurizio Arrivabene said.

“Mercedes introduced one engine early. That also has disadvantages during the course of the season, because you have no more development. This is the end of my comment.”

“I think it was completely blown out of proportion,” Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff added.

“Exactly what Maurizio said, the reasons we have introduced it early was in order to bring some performance to the track, with the risk of having to do many races until the end of the season – more races than our direct competitors, number one.

“Number two, you lack for further development. The longer you wait for the last introduction of engine, the more you can probably add the upgrade.

“So these are the reasons we brought it and not in order to extract a performance advantage out of the capability of burning more oil. If you ask the FIA you will be quite interested to see what the results are, and they are pretty much all the same.

“I don’t know where that rumor came, and it was nothing that was ever a problem or discussion among us.”

Lewis Hamilton’s future career plan coming into focus

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MONZA, Italy (AP) Lewis Hamilton’s future career plans have come into focus following Sebastian Vettel’s decision to extend his contract at Ferrari.

Hamilton hinted on Thursday that he plans to stay at Mercedes long term, and certainly beyond when his contract expires next season.

“I plan to extend with the team, which we will do at some point in the second half of the season or toward the end of the year,” the British driver said at the Italian Grand Prix.

Vettel’s three-year extension at Ferrari was announced last weekend.

“It’s good for Sebastian that he has signed,” the 32-year-old Hamilton said. “In the plan that I have coming up, in my five or six years or whatever it is that I have left in this sport, that piece of the puzzle is now in place so it makes my decision moving forward a lot easier.”

There had been speculation that Vettel contacted Mercedes before deciding to extend with Ferrari.

Hamilton said that Toto Wolff, Mercedes head of motorsport, kept him up to date.

“It’s kind of interesting to hear sometimes who calls and who’s trying to take my seat or take the seat next door to me,” the three-time F1 champion said. “And then to see following those calls the maneuvers that happen – such as Sebastian signing.”

“I don’t know if everyone expected him to sign a three-year deal but it doesn’t really change much for me,” Hamilton added. “I know the team is fully committed to me. I’ve never picked up the phone and spoken to any of these other teams.”

Mercedes to enter Formula E from season six, quit DTM after 2018

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Mercedes will join the FIA Formula E championship from the start of its sixth season in 2019 after taking up its option on an entry.

Mercedes announced last October that it had secured an option to join the grid as a manufacturer from season five (2018/19), but was still evaluating an entry as of last month.

Despite having until October to make a final decision on taking up the entry, Mercedes announced on Monday that it would be going ahead with plans to join Formula E, starting from season six (2019/20).

As part of a realignment of its motorsport interests, Mercedes also confirmed that it would be quitting DTM, Germany’s leading touring car series, at the end of 2018.

“Mercedes Benz has announced a strategic repositioning of its motorsport activities: the company will conclude its participation in DTM at the end of 2018 and enter Formula E in the 2019/20 season,” a statement reads.

“This new approach will see Mercedes-Benz competing at both ends of the motorsport spectrum: in Formula 1, the pinnacle of motorsport combining high technology and the most demanding competitive challenge; and in Formula E, which embodies the transformation that is underway in the automotive industry.”

“Mercedes-Benz will market future battery powered electric vehicles using the EQ label,” said Dr. Jens Thiemer, Vice President Marketing Mercedes-Benz.

“Formula E is a significant step in order to demonstrate the performance of our attractive battery powered electric vehicles, as well as giving an emotional spin to our EQ technology brand through motorsport and marketing.”

Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff added: “In motorsport like in every other area, we want to be the benchmark in the premium segment and to explore innovative new projects.

“The combination of Formula 1 and Formula E delivers that. Formula E is like an exciting start-up venture: it offers a brand new format, combining racing with a strong event character, in order to promote current and future technologies.

“Electrification is happening in the road car world and Formula E offers manufacturers an interesting platform to bring this technology to a new audience – and to do so with a completely new kind of racing, different to any other series.

“I am pleased that we were able to extend our entry option for one year to the 2019/20 season. This gives us time to properly understand the series and to prepare for our entry in the right way.”

“Today is a great day as we welcome Mercedes to the Formula E family – adding to the increasing number of manufacturers joining the electric revolution,” Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag said.

“This step shows how much the world is changing, not only in motorsport, but the whole automotive industry. We’re witnessing a transformation that will first change our cities, and then our roads.

“Formula E is the championship that embodies that change, and together with all our teams and manufacturers we’ll keep pushing for technologies to have better and more affordable electric cars.”