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Honda’s 2018 F1 fortunes could dictate Ricciardo’s Red Bull future

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Daniel Ricciardo has conceded that Honda’s performances with Toro Rosso in Formula 1 next year could dictate his future amid speculation of a similar engine deal for Red Bull in 2019.

Toro Rosso, Red Bull’s F1 B-team, announced on Friday in Singapore it would be working with Honda from the start of next season, with the Japanese marque’s existing deal with McLaren being terminated by mutual consent at the end of the year.

The deal has been tipped as a precursor for a future link-up between Red Bull and Honda in 2019 following paddock suggestions that Renault will stop working with the team at the end of next season, having picked up McLaren as a customer team this week.

Honda’s struggles since returning to F1 in 2015 have been well-documented, causing the McLaren relationship to fracture due to a lack of performance and reliability from its power units.

With his contract set to expire at the end of next year, Ricciardo is set to be a key player in the driver market for 2019 when seats at every single team on the grid are due to be available.

Should a deal with Honda be struck for Red Bull, Ricciardo conceded he would take its performances with Toro Rosso into account next year when it came to deciding his future.

“I guess next year would be a pretty big year for that to assess what is going to happen, how they’ll look, how Honda is with where it’s at,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“You’d assess the situation and go from there. It’s so early to think about it.

“But I’ll think about it next year, and that’ll dictate where I go.”

When asked directly if Honda would be supplying engines to Red Bull in 2019, general motorsport manager Masashi Yamamoto admitted on Friday it could be an option.

“Our main goal now is to absolutely concentrate on 2018 and Toro Rosso. We are going to give our best to achieve our best performance together as a team,” Yamamoto said.

“But if there is a chance in the future to supply engines, why not?”

The only driver who looks locked in for 2019 is Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari, with the rest of the field being free agents come the end of next season, including Ricciardo’s current teammate Max Verstappen.

Ferrari is understood to have expressed an interest in signing Ricciardo before, potentially rekindling the Australian’s partnership with Vettel at Red Bull from 2014.

Mercedes will also have two free seats for 2019, with both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas’ contracts expiring at the end of 2018.

Talking about Red Bull’s current driver line-up, team boss Christian Horner said he saw no reason to make any changes moving forward, but that there were plenty of options should they be required.

“Both of our drivers are currently under contract at least for next year, and it’s down to us to produce a good car and be competitive. Then, of course, why would the drivers want to be anywhere else?” Horner said.

“We’re not short of options on drivers, but our preference is absolutely to retain the two that we have in the car at the moment.”

Penske: No room for Patrick in Indy 500 lineup. Ganassi? OK

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) Roger Penske has no room in his Indianapolis 500 lineup for Danica Patrick.

“The Captain” has a hunch where Patrick’s Indy comeback will take her in May – with Chip Ganassi.

“I sent him a note and said, `Congratulations. Danica better be driving your car at Indy because unfortunately she’s not driving for us,”‘ Penske said, laughing.

The 35-year-old Patrick said this week she will race only in the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 next year and then she will walk away from racing. Patrick is the only woman to have led laps in both the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500. Patrick ran the Indy 500 from 2005 through 2011. Her highest finish was third in 2009, and she was the first woman to lead laps in the race when she paced the field for 19 trips around the Brickyard as a rookie.

Penske has a full field for Indy with Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and 2017 series champion Josef Newgarden racing as fulltime entries and three-time winner Helio Castroneves returns on a one-shot deal to try and win a fourth.

Chip Ganassi Racing is the likely ride at Indy. Ganassi has room to field additional cars – he’s scaling down from four full-time cars to two next year – and would give Patrick a car capable of winning. Ganassi said Friday he has met with Patrick and called her “Danica Double” a great idea.

Penske said Patrick and Ganassi, who has Ed Jones and IndyCar great Scott Dixon in his lineup, would be a perfect pair.

“I think that’s a great seat for her,” Penske said Saturday. “That’s a great team. They’re the ones that’s always been competitive there. I take my hat off that she wants to continue to go back to open wheel. That’s going to be terrific for the sport and there’s going to be a lot of interest around the country.”

Patrick was highly marketable early in her career even though wins were rare. She won the pole for the Daytona 500 in 2013, but finished 24th in the standings the last two seasons. She won her only IndyCar race in 2008, in Japan. Patrick never scored a top-five finish in NASCAR and had only seven top 10s (though she led laps at the Daytona 500) in 189 career starts.

Penske, a 16-time winner as a car owner of the Indy 500, said Patrick would return to IndyCar a better driver.

“I think she’s going to come back to IndyCar a lot tougher having run in NASCAR,” he said. “I think she’s going to be someone that, in a good car, is going to pick it up. She’s got plenty of time to practice.”

Team Penske won the owner championship Saturday in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series. Sam Hornish Jr., who won three IndyCar titles and the 2006 Indy 500, said the sport would welcome back Patrick.

“She’s probably going to have a better shot at Indy because of what she’s done the last five years,” Hornish said.

Patrick has not revealed the team she’ll race for but surely a package deal with the same team and same sponsor for the biggest races in motorsports would make her again racing’s most marketable driver.

“I think it’s a great way for her to say, hey, I’m here, I’ve done it, I’m going to go back to the two biggest races and see if I can’t get out on top,” Penske said.

Penske can win a NASCAR championship with Brad Keselowski in Sunday’s Cup race.

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