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Wehrlein not yet exploring options outside F1 for 2018

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Pascal Wehrlein says he is not yet exploring options outside of Formula 1 for 2018, and that he hopes to make progress with his future plans in the near future.

Mercedes youngster Wehrlein moved into F1 with Manor in 2016 before switching to Sauber for the current season, scoring all five of its points through 2017.

The German driver looks set to leave the team at the end of the year, though, after it signed an enhanced technical partnership with Ferrari for 2018 that should see Formula 2 champion Charles Leclerc take a seat.

The team’s second drive looks to be between Antonio Giovinazzi and the incumbent Marcus Ericsson, leaving Wehrlein looking elsewhere for a role.

Williams seems to be the only possible place Wehrlein could land in F1 next year, although the team is also considering Paul di Resta and Robert Kubica as potential replacements for Felipe Massa, and questions also remain over a requirement from sponsor Martini to field a driver over the age of 25 alongside 18-year-old Lance Stroll.

Asked about his future on Thursday ahead of the Mexican Grand Prix, Wehrlein said that while he was yet to get any firm decisions made, he hoped progress could be made soon.

“No news yet on this side, but I hope there are some discussions going on for next year, and I hope we can fix something soon,” Wehrlein said.

“I have no deadline, no. The last two years it was always quite late.

“I just hope we can find something and sign a contract for next year and I would be happy.”

When asked if he was considering seats outside F1, Wehrlein said: “I’m not looking outside yet.”

Wehrlein has been linked with a possible return to DTM with Mercedes, with whom he won the title in 2015, after a seat was freed up by Robert Wickens following his switch to the Verizon IndyCar Series with Schimdt Peterson Motorsports for 2018.

While Mercedes will be leaving DTM at the end of next year, it could give Wehrlein an option to follow the German marque into Formula E from 2019 should he wish to keep an interest in single-seaters.

Laguna Seca to host IndyCar for at least next three seasons

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INDYCAR made it official today: the 2019 season-ending race will move a couple of hours down the Northern California coast to WeatherTechRaceway Laguna Seca.

Sonoma Raceway, which has hosted INDYCAR since 2005 – including the last five season-ending races (that includes this year’s upcoming season finale) – will not be part of next season’s schedule.

Earlier today, the Monterey County (Calif.) Board of Supervisors, which oversees operation of the iconic racing facility, approved a three-year agreement with INDYCAR to host next year’s season finale on Sept. 20-22, 2019.

The remaining two race dates for 2020 and 2021 will be announced later, according to an INDYCAR media release.

The 2.238-mile permanent road course previously hosted CART and Champ Car World Series Indy car races from 1983 through 2004, including the season-ending races from 1989 through 1996.

“I can’t imagine a more attractive destination location for INDYCAR’s season finale,” Mark Miles, president and CEO of Hulman & Company, which owns INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said in a statement. “Monterey is a place people want to be, and we will bring all of our guests. I think it’s a great choice for us.”

Bobby Rahal, former CART/CCWS driver and current INDYCAR team co-owner of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, won four of the prior 22 previous Indy car races at Laguna Seca, all consecutively (1984-87).

“It’s great news, but I might be biased,” Rahal said. “I personally won four Indy car races there and won my first Can-Am race there. Our Indy car team won with Bryan Herta and Max Papis and our sports car team won IMSA races there.

“So I would almost bet you that Laguna Seca is the site of more victories for me as a driver and team owner combined of any track I’ve ever raced on.

“There is nothing better than the Monterey Bay area, and it’s a great circuit that always drew great crowds. So I’m thrilled to have Indy car racing coming back to a circuit I love so much. We will put on a good show, for sure.”

In addition to Rahal as a multiple winner, two-time winners at Laguna Seca were fellow current INDYCAR team co-owners Michael Andretti and Bryan Herta, INDYCAR on NBCSN analyst Paul Tracy, Danny Sullivan and Patrick Carpentier.

“The return of INDYCAR to its spiritual road racing home of Laguna Seca is a tremendous honor and testament to the appeal of Monterey, and through the support of the County of Monterey will provide a significant economic benefit to our area businesses,” said Timothy McGrane, CEO of WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, “We are looking forward to creating more memories in race fans’ minds like Bobby Rahal’s four consecutive Indy car wins from 1984-1987, Mario Andretti’s farewell race in 1994 and Alex Zanardi’s last-lap overtaking of Bryan Herta in the Corkscrew in 1996 that simply became known as ‘The Pass.'”

NBC Sports Group has secured exclusive domestic television and digital media rights for INDYCAR races beginning in 2019. Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN, agreed that Laguna Seca is an ideal venue to close out the schedule.

“We commend INDYCAR for returning to Laguna Seca, a historic track and an inspired place for the 2019 season finale,” Miller said. “The 2019 season will be our first as the exclusive media rights partner of INDYCAR, and we could not be more pleased to broadcast the championship from beautiful Monterrey.”

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