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With Sauber’s confirmation, just one F1 seat remains for 2018

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While the 2018 Formula 1 driver market has been nowhere near as volatile as expected given the extensions for Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel, some questions were left unanswered following the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi last Sunday.

Besides the one remaining seat at Williams alongside Lance Stroll, Sauber was still yet to confirm either of its 2018 drivers, with three candidates being in contention.

Ferrari was known to be keen on placing both its outstanding junior drivers, Charles Leclerc and Antonio Giovinazzi, at Sauber for 2018 as part of an expanded technical partnership with the team.

Sauber, meanwhile, had Marcus Ericsson angling for a seat despite not scoring any points in either of the last two seasons, relying heavily on his links to the team’s owners.

Sauber announced earlier this week it would be racing as ‘Alfa Romeo Sauber’ in 2018, heralding the return of the Alfa Romeo name to F1 after more than 30 years.

Despite the stronger links to Ferrari, the Italian manufacturer was unable to get its way, with Sauber confirming Leclerc and Ericsson at its launch on Saturday.

With this confirmation, just one seat remains on the F1 grid for 2018 as Williams continues to consider who will replace Felipe Massa and partner Lance Stroll next year.

Formula 1 2018 – Drivers and Teams

Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas
Ferrari: Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen
Red Bull: Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen
Force India: Sergio Perez, Esteban Ocon
Williams: Lance Stroll, TBA
Toro Rosso: Pierre Gasly, Brendon Hartley
Renault: Carlos Sainz Jr., Nico Hulkenberg
Haas: Romain Grosjean, Kevin Magnussen
McLaren: Fernando Alonso, Stoffel Vandoorne
Sauber: Marcus Ericsson, Charles Leclerc

Are you a racer looking for the fountain of youth? Try NHRA drag racing

Photos courtesy NHRA
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It used to be that many of the big-name race car drivers routinely raced into their 50s, most notably in NASCAR.

Richard Petty raced until he was 55. The late David Pearson was 54 when he last raced in NASCAR.

But these days, we’re seeing the majority of professional racers calling it quits in their early-to-mid 40s – like Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle and most recently, Jamie McMurray.

But that’s not the case for competitors in the National Hot Rod Association. Like fine wine, it seems that the kings of the drag strip only seem to get better and more successful with age.

To them, the “r word” is not “retire,” it’s “reaction time.”

Consider many of today’s stars in the NHRA and their respective ages:

* Funny Car legend John Force will turn 70 in May. And while he hasn’t won a championship since 2013, Force remains one of the biggest forces – no pun intended – in the sport.

Fellow Funny Car drivers still seemingly in their prime include Ron Capps (53 years old), Jack Beckman (52), Tim Wilkerson (turns 58 on Dec. 29), Cruz Pedregon (55) and Gary Densham (62).

* In Top Fuel, the winningest driver and record eight-time champ Tony Schumacher will turn 49 on Dec. 25. Those already on the other side of the 50-year-old line include Clay Millican (52), Doug Kalitta (54), Terry McMillen (64), Billy Torrence (60) and Cory McClenathan (turns 56 on Jan. 30).

Chris Karamesines

And let’s not forget the oldest active drag racer on the NHRA professional circuit (albeit part-time rather than full-time), Chicago native Chris Karamesines, who is still racing a Top Fuel dragster at 300-plus mph at the spry young age of 87 years old!

Yes, you read that right, Karamesines is 87 – but could easily pass for 67 – and he has no intention of retiring anytime soon.

* Ironically, the slower Pro Stock class is not as well-represented in the 50-and-over group as is Top Fuel and Funny Car, with only two regulars who have passed the half-century mark: four-time champ Greg Anderson (57) and Kenny Delco (65).

But that 50-and-above fraternity will add at least one other member next year when former champ Jason Line turns 50 on July 24. And five-time champ Jeg Coughlin Jr. will turn 50 in 2020.

Jerry Savoie

* Even the easy riders of Pro Stock Motorcycle have several 50-and-over competitors: Scotty Pollacheck (turns 50 on Feb. 8), 2016 champ Jerry Savoie (turns 60 on Feb. 23), Karen Stofer (54), Steve Johnson (turns 58 on Jan. 19) and Hector Arana (60).

Granted, drag racers don’t have the same grueling time spent behind the wheel. Their average run lasts from just over 3.5 seconds to maybe eight or nine seconds.

And unlike driving 400 or 500 laps or miles as in NASCAR, a full four-round race during Sunday eliminations for NHRA racers adds up to one whole mile – or less.

Top Fuel and Funny Car drivers only go a distance of 1,000 feet per run, while Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle go a full quarter-mile (1,320 feet) in their respective runs.

In a sense, hitting the 5-0 mark or higher has become somewhat of a fountain of youth for several racers.

For example, Capps won his first career Funny Car crown in 2016 at the age of 51.

The same year, Savoie won his first career PSM title at the age of 57.

And Force won his most recent Funny Car title in 2013 at the age of 64.

Force has already gone on record to say that he wants to become the first major pro champion to win a title at 70 years old – which would also become the 17th championship of his illustrious career as the winningest driver in all NHRA history.

He gets a chance toward doing just that when the 2019 NHRA season kicks off at Pomona, California, on Feb. 7-10.

Follow @JerryBonkowski