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Toro Rosso will consider Honda requests on F1 2018 driver line-up

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Scuderia Toro Rosso chief Franz Tost says the team will take into consideration any requests from Formula 1 engine partner Honda when it comes to decide on its driver line-up for next season.

Toro Rosso and Honda announced a new engine partnership on Friday starting from next season, the Japanese marque having agreed a mutual split with existing customer team McLaren at the end of the year.

An off-shoot of the deal was Carlos Sainz Jr. moving up to Renault for 2018, freeing up at least one seat at Toro Rosso for next year, which currently also fields Daniil Kvyat.

Red Bull has used Toro Rosso as a first step in F1 for its young drivers, with 2016 GP2 champion Pierre Gasly waiting for an opportunity to step up.

Honda has also aided the career of Japanese racer Nobuharu Matsushita in recent years as part of McLaren’s junior program, leading him to be linked with the Toro Rosso seat.

When asked about Toro Rosso’s driver plans for 2018, Tost said that no decision would be rushed into, with considerations from all parties being taken into account.

“Currently we have two quite successful and competitive drivers with Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz, and I assume that they will finish the season with us,” Tost said.

“Regarding the drivers for next year, Red Bull will decide who is driving with us, and of course we will also take into consideration any request from our partners.”

While Gasly appears to be a shoo-in for one of the Toro Rosso F1 seats in 2018, Matushita’s chances of stepping up seem limited given the requirement to score 40 FIA super license points in a three-year period.

As things stand, Matsushita has four points to his name, scored for coming ninth in GP2 in 2015, meaning he must finish in the top three of the F2 standings this year to hit the required figure.

With four races to go, Matsushita is sixth in the standings, 37 points shy of third-placed Artem Markelov.

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.