Motor racing-Petronas staying with Mercedes F1 team beyond 2026

FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - Dutch Grand Prix - Circuit Zandvoort, Zandvoort, Netherlands - September 2, 2022 Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton during practice REUTERS/Piroschka Van De Wouw

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) -Malaysian oil company Petronas will remain long-term title sponsors and technical partners of the Mercedes Formula One team after announcing on Wednesday a multi-year contract extension from 2026.

Mercedes have won the last eight constructors' titles and have been with Petronas since they returned to the sport with their own team in 2010.

Seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton and fellow-Briton George Russell are yet to win a race after 16 rounds of this season, however.

"Today we are doing something a little bit unusual -- announcing a partnership that will begin in four years' time," said Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.

"This sends an important message: our team and Petronas are no longer just partners, we are family, and we will be one team for many more years to come."

Formula One's engine rules are changing in 2026, with significantly increased electrical power and a commitment to 100% sustainable fuels.

Petronas president and group CEO Tengku Muhammad Taufik said the company looked forward to the next chapter with the focus on providing advanced sustainable fuel for Mercedes and customer teams.

Wolff, Hamilton and Russell were in Kuala Lumpur before travelling on to Singapore for this weekend's grand prix at the Marina Bay Street Circuit.

"I feel like this has been a year of growth. And I think it's been empowering to have an experience like this," Hamilton told reporters.

"There's people on our team that have joined, for example, in the seven or eight years of dominance that we had and have only known winning. And so this has been a good experience for all of us."

Mercedes are third in the championship, 35 points behind Ferrari but a massive 174 adrift of runaway leaders Red Bull.

"I think if we can achieve that second place in the constructors' championship, there'll be a huge boost for all of us back at the factory, and also probably quite a huge blow to our rivals in Ferrari," said Russell.

"Psychologically, it can be quite important, but nevertheless to see that improvement we've made through the season... I think it's looking really good going into next season."

Ferrari started the season strongly, with Charles Leclerc winning two of the first three races and finishing second in the other, but have made driver and strategy errors as well as suffering reliability issues.

Russell has been on the podium in four of the last five races.

(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru/Alan Baldwin in London; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Christian Radnedge)

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