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.”

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing
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Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”