Munoz’s first IndyCar street course day ends in one piece

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With his Firestone Indy Lights commitments out of the way for the weekend, Carlos Munoz was available for a last-minute IZOD IndyCar Series cameo Sunday in Toronto. Munoz got the nod from Panther Racing to deputize for Ryan Briscoe, who broke his wrist in Saturday’s race and was knocked out of action.

The only issue going into Sunday? Munoz, the 2013 Indianapolis 500 rookie-of-the-year, had yet to sample a Dallara DW12 chassis on a road or street course. Ever.

“Yeah, I was really surprised because it was really late, and I don’t any experience in an Indy car on a road course. None in my life,” the 21-year-old Colombian said before the race. “I don’t even have my seat here from IndyCar, from the Indy 500. I was surprised. I talked to Michael (Andretti), I talked to my engineers, I talked to some other guys, and they said you have to take this chance. This is an opportunity to get more experience, more laps.”

Munoz got his first laps in in the morning warmup, and ran a smooth, consistent race all things considered. With nothing else to prove other than keeping it between the barriers, Munoz ran competitive lap times and brought the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet home in P17, one lap down.

“It was a long race and a hard race for me,” he said afterwards. “It was basically my first time in an IndyCar on a street course, and I didn’t know what to expect to be in a race here with so many cars out there. We continued to drop lap times and I got more and more comfortable with each lap, and by the end we put together quite a good lap, which are all positive things. It’s good work from the National Guard crew and my goal was to finish, and I finished, and I’m very happy to have this opportunity today.”

‘Still quite early’ for Ricciardo to think about Red Bull F1 future

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Daniel Ricciardo feels it is “still quite early” to make a decision about his Red Bull Formula 1 future despite seeing teammate Max Verstappen announce on Friday he would be staying with the team until 2020.

Verstappen, 20, put pen to paper on an enhanced F1 contract with Red Bull, with his previous deal due to expire at the end of next season in parallel to Ricciardo’s own agreement.

Ricciardo was asked following practice on Friday why he is yet to strike a new deal for himself with Red Bull, and explained he is in no rush to make a final decision when he has over a year to run on his current contract.

“It’s not that I’ve said no to anything. It’s just still quite early I think,” Ricciardo explained.

“People talked a little bit about contracts and the silly season for next year, but I thought that would still happen next year. It’s still quite early.

“If I’m to try and extract some positives out of his news it’s that it gives us good confidence for next year. He and his management see a lot of positives in the team to continue like that.

“I’m 100 per cent here next year, I can at least say that, and I think it gives both of us confidence that we’ll keep progressing the way we are.”

Red Bull said upon announcing Verstappen’s new deal that it wants to “build a team around him”, with the 20-year-old standing out as a once-in-a-generation talent.

The focus surrounding Verstappen has not left Ricciardo feeling as though he is in the shade or in any way playing second-fiddle to the Dutchman, stressing he has no internal concerns at Red Bull.

“For sure, as far as media goes, he certainly gets a lot of attention. He’s broken records for his age and things like that, so rightly so,” Ricciardo said.

“Take the media out of it, as far as inside the team, new parts on the car, things like this, there’s always been parity and equality.”

Verstappen is only the third driver to commit to a deal beyond the end of next season, following Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari and Fernando Alonso at McLaren on multi-year contracts.

All 10 F1 teams have at least one free seat for 2019, making Ricciardo a possible candidate for seats with either Mercedes or Ferrari were he to consider a move away from Red Bull.

Speaking to British broadcaster Sky Sports, Red Bull F1 advisor Helmut Marko said he felt Ricciardo was “putting himself on the market” by waiting to make a decision on his future, but that talks would take place when possible.