Perez: Open Force India seat is ‘best available out there’

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AUSTIN – Sergio Perez holds one of two seats at Sahara Force India for 2017, which seemed unfathomable to write about a month ago, but is now the actuality after Nico Hulkenberg – instead – has departed for the Renault Sport F1 Team.

Perez addressed his own Renault rumors before explaining why he has re-signed with Force India.

“It was more to do with the fact that I believe in my team, I see the best future for me here,” he told assembled reporters on Thursday. “That’s why I took the decision to stay for another year.”

The Mexican driver now said that the vacant seat alongside him at the Mercedes-powered team is the “best available” one left for 2017, as the grid comes together for next season.

“I think many drivers wanted the seat at Force India because at the moment I think it is the best available seat out there,” Perez said.

“So there should be a lot of interest in that seat. I just hope that the team – and it’s down to the team totally to take the best possible decision.”

Perez, who’s been matched alongside Kamui Kobayashi at Sauber, Jenson Button at McLaren and Nico Hulkenberg at Force India, now could well assume team leader role in 2017 for what would be the first time in his career.

It seems a good possibility that a young gun such as one of the two Manor drivers, Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon, couldscore the Force India second seat.

Perez was quick to hail Hulkenberg as the best teammate he’s had, and downplayed suggestions he was overly keen to become the team leader.

“I think definitely Nico was the strongest teammate I’ve had up to date in F1,” Perez said.

“I think the relationship between myself and Nico was good, but not only that, I think our level on track was really closely-matched. Every single practice,” he said.

“And that meant a lot to the team because we pushed the team forward and that’s to the benefit of the team, to have two teammates that are so closely matched together. I always knew that if I didn’t get the perfect lap in quali, he would beat me, and vice-versa, and also in the race, race after race. That just helps the team because through our seasons we had bad cars and good cars, but it was always important to make sure that we took the maximum out of each car.

“I think whoever comes, it’s up to the team. I am sure that the team will take the best decision. We’re obviously looking for the best possible teammate that I can have.

“I just hope that whoever comes comes here with the right attitude and obviously a quick driver, a good attitude to work together for the team and work together to improve the car. That will be important. That makes a huge difference.

“If you have a driver that is too far off the pace and you see it sometimes in a couple of teams, you just don’t take the most out of the car because you know that if you don’t have a good lap you can still beat your teammate. I think for me it’s important to have the fastest possible teammate.”

Ganassi announces multiyear sponsorship extension with American Legion for No. 10

Chip Ganassi American Legion
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Chip Ganassi Racing announced a new primary sponsorship deal with The American Legion this week, shoring up the funding on its No. 10 Dallara-Honda of Alex Palou.

The 2021 NTT IndyCar Series champion primarily had driven with NTT Data sponsorship the past two seasons. But NTT Data will move next season to McLaren Racing as a primary sponsor for Felix Rosenqvist in 10 races and on the Indy 500 car of Tony Kanaan (who drove an American Legion car for Ganassi at the Brickyard last year).

It was the latest twist in a McLaren-Ganassi saga that included a contract dispute for the services of Palou (who is expected to move to McLaren in 2024 after reaching an agreement to race with Ganassi next year).

Ganassi stayed within its own walls to help plug the sponsorship gap left by NTT Data, re-signing The American Legion to a multiyear extension. The Indianapolis-based non-profit organization, which has been sponsoring Ganassi cars for the past few seasons, also will be associated with other Ganassi drivers, including Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson and development driver Kyffin Simpson in Indy NXT.

The Ganassi organization will continue promoting The American Legion’s “Be The One” campaign aimed at reducing veteran suicides. The team launched an online auction for the initiative this week.

“Supporting our nation’s veterans is of immense importance to our organization and we are humbled to continue supporting The American Legion’s mission in ending veteran suicide,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a release. “We will do absolutely everything we can to help veterans get the support they need while raising public awareness of the ‘Be The One’ platform.”

“We have received an overwhelming amount of support from fans, active-duty military members and veterans as a result of this partnership and we’re pleased to see it grow,” said Dean Kessel, chief marketing officer at The American Legion. “Thanks to the continuous collaboration with the team’s other partners, and the promotion of the ‘Be The One’ initiative, we are discovering more ways to engage with the military community than ever before. We want all veterans to know that it’s okay to ask for help.”