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Hamilton ‘very fortunate’, but was confident of Singapore win in rain

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Lewis Hamilton admitted he got “very fortunate” during Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix after a three-car crash at the first corner eliminated both Ferraris, but always felt confident of victory in the rain.

In the first wet night race in F1 history, Hamilton was able to jump from fifth to first on the opening lap when title rival Sebastian Vettel tangled with Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen at Turn 1.

Hamilton managed to negotiate the wet-to-dry phase, three safety car periods and race-long pressure from Daniel Ricciardo to bag his third straight victory, extending his lead over Vettel to 28 points – the largest gap at the top all season.

“Yesterday we struggled, and we had no idea what was going to happen today, but we just tried to stay focused and try to get ahead,” Hamilton said.

“Of course we were very fortunate with the Ferraris in the beginning. I couldn’t be happier, I’m really grateful. God blessed me today for sure.

“I capitalised on the incident. Who would have known that would happen? Really unfortunate for the Ferraris but a great result for the team, Daniel put up a really good fight today. I enjoyed racing him.”

Hamilton said on Saturday after qualifying he needed a “miracle” to leave Singapore still leading the championship, coming in the form of the first-lap clash.

However, he always fancied his chances at Marina Bay when it started to rain in the build-up to lights out.

“I needed it to rain, and as soon as it rained, I knew where I was going to finish,” Hamilton said.

“I knew I had the pace when it rains, but unfortunately we just didn’t have the car in the dry, but today it raining, those are my conditions.”

Bottas never felt ‘in a panic’ about new Mercedes deal

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SINGAPORE (AP) Valtteri Bottas took his new Mercedes contract in his stride, even though the decision was made late in the season.

The Finnish driver, who joined as an emergency replacement after Nico Rosberg retired just days after winning last year’s title, was awarded a one-year extension this week for 2018.

Despite the somewhat late call, leading observers to speculate whether Mercedes had been looking elsewhere, Bottas never felt “in a massive panic” about whether he would get an extra year.

“At no point during this year have I got any signs from the team that they were looking somewhere else,” Bottas said at the Singapore Grand Prix. “For sure, it is a good feeling, and better than not knowing and better than having no confirmation.”

Bottas has exceeded expectations as Lewis Hamilton’s teammate, winning two races and securing seven other podium finishes to emerge as an outside contender for the title.

Hamilton leads Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel by three points, with Bottas a further 41 behind Hamilton in third place.

Bottas has not written off his title hopes, but knows he has to score heavily in the seven remaining races to have a chance, starting with Singapore.

“I should start sooner than later to finish ahead of them, as the season end is coming closer,” he said.

However, the sinewy street circuit in Singapore reduces speed and overtaking is more suited to Ferrari than Mercedes. At Monaco and Hungary – which are both notoriously hard to overtake on – Ferrari secured a 1-2 and left Mercedes lagging behind.

“This track is not one of our strongest circuits, and maybe even one of the most difficult ones,” Bottas said. “It is a lot about the trust in your car.”

At times this season, Mercedes has struggled with its set up, causing problems with balance and rear tire issues.

“If we look at Budapest and Monaco, for example, we have been struggling,” Bottas said. “It is not the easiest car to set up right.”

Although Singapore is a night race, the sweltering humidity tests drivers’ endurance more than other races as fatigue and dehydration impact on concentration.

“Toward the end of the race here, it is more likely that you make a mistake,” Bottas said. “Physical fitness does play a role.”

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.”

Hamilton completes 2018 Pirelli tire test at Paul Ricard

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Just four days after becoming Formula 1’s first back-to-back winner in 2017 and taking the lead of the drivers’ championship for the first time, Lewis Hamilton was back behind the wheel of his Mercedes W08 to take part in a Pirelli tire test at Paul Ricard.

As part of an extensive testing program for next year’s tires that features all 10 teams, Mercedes kicked off two days’ worth of running at Paul Ricard on Thursday.

Not known for being a prolific voluntary tester, Hamilton flew into Paul Ricard in the morning by helicopter before completing a series of runs on Pirelli’s prototype tires.

Hamilton completed 114 laps in total at Paul Ricard, with the circuit confirmed to be joining next year’s F1 calendar when the French Grand Prix returns.

Hamilton will hand over testing duties to Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas on Friday.