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Andretti, Honda extend IndyCar partnership on multi-year deal

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Andretti Autosport has ended the summer saga of whether it would change up its engine partner in the Verizon IndyCar Series for 2018, by announcing an extension of its existing tie-up with Honda on a multi-year deal.

Andretti was known to be in talks with Chevrolet about a possible switch for 2018, only for bosses at the team to opt against ending the partnership with Honda that has been in place since 2014.

Despite the speculation, Honda Performance Development President Art St. Cyr told NBC Sports at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course last month that HPD expected to continue with its current lineup of teams.

“It’s no secret that we’ve been weighing this decision for a while now,” said Andretti Autosport CEO Michael Andretti.

“We’ve had strong relationships and have marked milestones with both manufacturers, but we’re pleased to continue our Honda partnership.

“We have a great history of success with Honda and I have no doubt that together, our collection of achievements will continue to grow.”

“We’re extremely happy to continue our successful partnership with Michael Andretti and Andretti Autosport,” St. Cyr added.

“As Michael stated, his team has played a major role in our success at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, including victories at three of the last four Indy 500s.

“In addition to success at Indianapolis, 47 of Honda’s 225 Indy car victories through the years have been scored by the Andretti Autosport. Together, we’re looking forward to adding to this already impressive total in the future.”

Andretti poked fun at the summer saga by releasing the official decision via a video on social media, with dominos falling and then leading to Honda.

Andretti Autosport also confirmed Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti, no surprise as both drivers were already under contract.

The omission of Alexander Rossi is because Rossi has not signed with any team as yet, contrary to a report earlier this week that he had – and Rossi “liked” a tweet earlier this week that refuted that he was solidified at Andretti. With Andretti staying with Honda, it does provide the option for Rossi to stay, as the question for him isn’t whether he stays in IndyCar but where in IndyCar he drives.

Takuma Sato will not return to the team, Andretti confirmed to the Indianapolis Star, for a second season – Sato and his management group having opted to move before an engine decision was finalized. Bobby Rahal told NBC Sports in July that he and the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team, where Sato is poised to return to, had “warm feelings” for Sato.

It’s possible that beyond the four cars Andretti Autosport runs this year that a fifth could be added for more races than just the Indianapolis 500.

“With powertrain confirmation now in place, Andretti will turn its focus on setting the team’s 2018 stable of drivers,” the team statement read.

“With Series and Indy 500 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay and third-generation racer Marco Andretti already contracted through the next season, the team will confirm and announce its remaining drivers in the coming weeks.”

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.