Vergne still believes he can secure Red Bull seat

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The race to replace Mark Webber at Red Bull next season may appear to be a straight fight between Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen, but Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne believes that he is still in the running.

Vergne was originally shortlisted by Red Bull for the seat, but team principal Christian Horner stated earlier this week that the French driver was no longer a serious consideration. Furthermore, Daniel Ricciardo tested the Red Bull RB9 car at Silverstone earlier this week as an ‘open audition’, yet Vergne is still sure that he is under consideration.

Speaking to Autosport, Vergne said: “I still believe in my chances. There is of course a chance. I would love to drive for Red Bull.”

However, Vergne was quick to underline that his focus was on Toro Rosso and 2013, not next season.

“I don’t want to think about anything for next year, any chance that I could go to Red Bull Racing whatsoever. You lose focus, and you lose some energy, so I want to keep it all for this year with Toro Rosso.”

Vergne’s comments suggest that he is not giving up hope, although Horner’s suggestion of a two-horse race may leave the French driver disappointed when a decision is made. With Ricciardo’s qualifying form outclassing that of Vergne, Red Bull do seem to leaning towards the Australian driver, although his test at Silverstone earlier this week was not trouble-free following a mistake that saw him beach the car in the gravel just seven laps into the session.

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.