Tost: High chance Ricciardo will join Red Bull

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Scuderia Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost has revealed that there is a “high chance” that Daniel Ricciardo will move to Red Bull next season to partner Sebastian Vettel in Milton Keynes.

A seat has become vacant after Mark Webber confirmed his retirement from the sport at the end of the season, and the defending world champions appear to have narrowed their decision down to Ricciardo and Lotus driver Kimi Räikkönen. However, Tost is sure that his driver will make the jump to the triple-champion team.

“The likelihood is pretty high,” Tost told the official Formula One website. “Red Bull Racing is showing interest in Daniel and the decision will be made inside Red Bull. So there is no decision yet – but my understanding right now is that it could, in fact, be Daniel.”

Tost also explained what advice he has given Ricciardo in case of Red Bull giving him the seat.

“Very simple things. I told him that he’s got six months now – if Red Bull Racing picks you – to prepare for 2014 and never forgetting along that way that in 2014 you will be the team mate of a three-time champion. Prepare mentally.”

Ricciardo tested for Red Bull at Silverstone last month, but a rumor at the Hungarian Grand Prix emerged suggesting that Fernando Alonso could also be a candidate for the seat, potentially complicating the team’s decision. However, it may be a case of not wishing to have two strong personalities at Red Bull for risk of splitting in inter-team relations.

Hamilton leads damp first USGP practice at COTA, Hartley debuts

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Lewis Hamilton continued his impressive Formula 1 record at the Circuit of The Americas by topping opening practice for the United States Grand Prix on Friday for Mercedes.

A four-time winner of the USGP at COTA, Hamilton set the pace in damp conditions in first practice after rain hit the Austin area in the lead-up to the start of the session.

After initially venturing out on intermediate tires, Hamilton made the switch to super-softs at the halfway point in FP1, ultimately posting a fastest time of 1:36.335.

Hamilton’s time saw him finish over half a second clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who he could beat to the F1 drivers’ championship at COTA this weekend should results go his way.

Mercedes got two cars into the top three as Valtteri Bottas wound up third in the second W08 car, six-tenths back from Hamilton, while Max Verstappen ended FP1 fourth for Red Bull.

Felipe Massa led Williams into the top 10 with an impressive lap en route to fifth, finishing ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne.

Vandoorne was left to lead McLaren’s charge after a hydraulic leak sidelined Fernando Alonso for much of the session, limiting the Spaniard to just four laps in total.

Force India managed to get both its drivers up into the top 10 as Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez finished eighth and ninth respectively, edging out Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr. who was P10 in his first appearance for the team.

Brendon Hartley enjoyed his first run-out in Toro Rosso’s STR12 car ahead of his grand prix debut on Sunday, taking P14 overall.

The New Zealander had not driven an F1 car since a test with Mercedes in 2012, but put in a solid first display in practice, even though his race hopes are set to be hindered by a grid penalty.

Second practice for the United States Grand Prix is live on the NBC Sports app from 3pm ET today.