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No frustration for Toro Rosso over Renault F1 engine deficit

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Toro Rosso Formula 1 chief Franz Tost says there is no frustration over the power deficit of the Renault engine used by the team, citing confidence in the French manufacturer to make gains in the coming races.

Toro Rosso’s weakest area through 2016 was power after it opted to use Ferrari’s 2015-spec engines, meaning development was frozen for the entire year.

With relations between parent team Red Bull and Renault once again cordial, Toro Rosso moved back to a current-year supply for 2017, only to for there to be a power deficit compared to the Ferrari and Mercedes power units.

Toro Rosso currently sits fifth in the F1 constructors’ championship, with Carlos Sainz Jr. scoring its best result of the season so far last time out in Monaco, finishing sixth.

Renault has promised engine updates will arrive in the next few races, and Tost is pleased with the progress that is being made, even if it is gradual.

“Renault is making some small steps,” Tost said. “First of all, they have to get everything under control from the reliability side. We must not forget that Renault came up with a completely new design of an engine and this takes time.

“We all know that the power unit now is very very complicated and I’m convinced that within the second half of the season they will provide us with a very good, powerful engine. I must say that so far we are quite happy with the performance with Renault.”

While Red Bull remains frustrated by the performance of its power unit as it looks to gain ground on rivals Ferrari and Mercedes, Tost said Toro Rosso remains relaxed, particularly in light of its struggles in 2016.

“There’s no frustration. It always depends where you are coming from,” Tost said.

“Last year we had a one year-old engine and now we are even happy to have this year’s engine and as I just mentioned before, I’m convinced that Renault will do the steps forward which they promised.”

Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.