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Perez slams ‘useless’ penalty to Hulkenberg in Abu Dhabi

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Sergio Perez ended his 2017 Formula 1 season with another seventh place to bring his final season total up to 100 points, good for seventh place in the championship for Sahara Force India.

But ending seventh Sunday in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and behind Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg – who was penalized for passing Perez early in the race by going off track and gaining an advantage – left Perez bemused post-race.

Hulkenberg moved to the outside of Perez on the run off the second long straight going for seventh place, but was unable to complete the maneuver on the racing surface. The German promptly ran off course through the chicane, coming back on track ahead of Perez.

This netted Hulkenberg a five-second time penalty which he’d serve at his first pit stop, but even so Perez felt the penalty wasn’t severe enough for the infraction given Hulkenberg’s long-run pace in his Renault.

“It wasn’t the most exciting race for me, but I had a very busy first lap battling with Nico,” Perez told NBCSN post-race. “I think his penalty was very strange because I was ahead of him and he just cut the corner, gaining a big advantage and a position.

“He had more pace and in clean air he could just go and make up enough time to make the penalty useless.

“He should have just given up the position, as is required and as he did later in the race with Grosjean, and he would have had to overtake me on track.”

Hulkenberg, for his part, knew he had to push once past to ensure he’d built enough of a gap to overcome the ensuing penalty at the stop. The drama for him was extended when they had issues securing two tires on his car – but unlike teammate Carlos Sainz Jr., at least all four stayed on.

“Well I knew I had to have the five-second gap over Checo. When I started to realize the pit stop went long and trouble on rear left, then rear right, I started to sweat!” Hulkenberg told NBCSN.

“You push but there’s so little grip leaving pits. That was a little thriller! It was a very couple interesting laps to get past the Haas (Romain Grosjean), and I had Checo (Perez) waiting to take advantage. So it’s decent to end the season this way. It’s not amazing, but it’s good to have this in our pocket.”

Hulkenberg’s sixth place finish netted Renault sixth in the constructor’s championship while Perez and Esteban Ocon put Force India a clear best of the rest in fourth, for a second consecutive season.

Although Perez didn’t score a podium for the first time in four seasons with Force India (previously achieved them in 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix, 2015 Russian Grand Prix and 2016 Monaco and European Grands Prix), this marked his equal best championship finish of seventh and with only one point fewer scored this year than last, and Perez made an important point that that was with one fewer race.

“I am happy with the result today and it was important to finish this year strongly. It’s my first year at Force India without a podium, but I think we made a big step forward,” he said.

“I scored one point less than last year with just 20 races on the calendar instead of 21. The overall result is great: seventh in the drivers’ championship and fourth in the teams’ standings. I don’t think we could do anything better than that this year and I hope we can continue this way into 2018.”

Will Power, Roger Penske collect Indy 500 trophies

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DETROIT (AP) Last year, Will Power finally broke through and won the Indianapolis 500, so he can cross that accomplishment off the list.

Now 37, Power is reaching an age when it’s fair to wonder how much longer he’ll keep at it.

“I’m really enjoying my racing. I’ve never been so motivated. I’m fitter than I’ve ever been, mentally on the game,” Power said. “I think once you get to this part of your career, you realize that you’re not going to be doing this forever. So you’ve got to enjoy it and you’ve got to go for it when you’ve got it, because, you know, probably only another five years at maximum, and you’re retired.”

Whenever Power’s career does wind down, his 2018 Indy 500 win will remain a moment to remember. He was in Detroit on Wednesday night with team owner Roger Penske for a ceremony in which they received their “Baby Borg” trophies for winning last year’s race. The Baby Borgs are replicas of the Borg-Warner Trophy that honors the Indy 500 winner.

Power finished second at Indy in 2015, and his victory last year made him the race’s first Australian winner. It was Penske’s 17th Indy 500 win as an owner, part of a banner year for him. Penske also won a NASCAR Cup title with driver Joey Logano.

“When you think about 2018, we had 32 race wins, 35 poles. I think we led almost 5,400 laps, with all the series,” Penske said.

On Wednesday, Penske collected another significant trophy, and he’ll be celebrated again in a couple weeks. He’s being inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Feb. 1.

“It’s amazing that a guy from the north can get into the Hall of Fame in the south,” Penske joked. “No, it’s special. … NASCAR has helped us build our brand over the years, certainly, with the reputation it has, and the notoriety we get, being a NASCAR team owner.”

Penske’s most recent Indy 500 title came courtesy of Power, who long preferred road courses to ovals but certainly looked comfortable at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year.

“The 500 was one record that he didn’t have, and I think you saw the excitement he and his wife, and the whole team, when he was able to win the race,” Penske said. “He’s probably the best qualifier we’ve ever had, as a road racer, and no question his expertise. He didn’t like ovals to start with, but I think today, he loves racing on ovals.”

Power seems content with all aspects of his racing life at the moment. The aftermath of an Indy 500 victory can be a whirlwind, and it would be understandable for a driver to be weary of it eight months later, but for Power, it’s a new experience.

“I’ve been looking forward to this event for a few months now, to actually get the Baby Borg. You have the face on it – I didn’t realize that, you actually get your own face on it,” Power said. “It makes you realize the significance of the event, when you think about all the things that come with winning the 500.”

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Follow Noah Trister at http://www.Twitter.com/noahtrister