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Toro Rosso-Honda Formula 1 deal announced for 2018

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Scuderia Toro Rosso will link up with Japanese manufacturer Honda in Formula 1 next season after signing a multi-year deal, announced on Friday in Singapore.

After returning to F1 as an engine manufacturer in 2015, Honda has endured three difficult years exclusively supplying McLaren, with the British team opting to cut ties at the end of the current season.

Eager to remain in the sport, a deal was struck for Honda to work with Toro Rosso from 2018, with the team’s existing Renault engine supply moving in the opposite direction to McLaren.

The deal was confirmed shortly after first practice for the Singapore Grand Prix, ending months of speculation about Honda’s future in the sport.

“Scuderia Toro Rosso is pleased to announce that it has reached a multi-year agreement with Honda Motor Co. Ltd. to run Honda power units starting from the 2018 Formula 1 season,” a statement from Toro Rosso reads, with confirmation of Renault’s departure coming earlier in the day.

“Everyone in our team is very much looking forward to working with Honda,” Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost said.

“Ever since its founder Soichiro Honda entered his motorcycles in events, racing has always been a central part of the company’s ethos.  It’s a very exciting challenge and I hope that both parties will gain a great deal from it as we develop together.

“Honda has a long history in Formula 1, dating back to 1964 when it first entered the sport with its own team and, as an engine supplier it has taken five drivers’ world championship titles and six constructors’.

“This heritage, together with the full confidence that we have in Honda’s capabilities to succeed, make me strongly believe that we will achieve a fruitful future together.”

Honda president and representative director Takahiro Hachigo added: “Toro Rosso is an experienced team with a youthful energy and history of nurturing the stars of the future.

“Everyone at Honda is looking forward to working with Toro Rosso, and we are excited to start this new chapter in our Formula 1 journey with them. I would like to express our appreciation to Liberty Media and the FIA for their cooperation toward the realization of this partnership.

“Honda and Toro Rosso will work as one team to strive for progress and a successful future together. We appreciate the support of our fans as we begin this challenge.”

The Toro Rosso-Honda deal is also shaping up to be a pre-cursor for a possible deal with the senior Red Bull team in 2019, with speculation emerging in Singapore that Renault is looking to end its contract at the end of next season.

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.