Tost: Ricciardo leading race for Red Bull seat

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Scuderia Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost believes that Daniel Ricciardo is currently leading the race to replace Mark Webber at Red Bull at the end of the season, although he refused to write off Jean-Eric Vergne’s chances.

Both Toro Rosso drivers have made good starts to the 2013 season, but it is Ricciardo who has starred, running to P7 at the Chinese Grand Prix and turning many heads in the process.

“Well, performance is all that matters and you definitely can see that Daniel with 11 races more under his belt – which is more than half of a season – is probably in a better situation,” Tost told the official Formula One website.

“Right now he has the upper hand, which we have seen in Barcelona. But that is a snapshot right now. Generally I would say that both would fit into the Red Bull concept.”

Tost did make clear that if either driver was to join Red Bull for next season, they would need to have a highly impressive second half of 2013 to prove that they are worthy of joining the defending world champions.

“Both would have to demonstrate an exceptionally good second half of the season, because don’t forget we are speaking about the world champions, so the requirement profile is quite different to being with a team like Toro Rosso.

“But don’t get me wrong, both are on a very good path and everything will depend on the next couple of months as to whether one of the two of them – should the need be there – qualify for Red Bull Racing.”

Ricciardo and Vergne both have strong cases for joining Red Bull should the team choose not to renew Mark Webber’s contract, but with Nico Hulkenberg and Kimi Raikkonen also thought to be in the running for the seat, the Toro Rosso pair will need to produce some sensational performances if they are to prove their worth to the world champions.

Here’s who were picking to win the Indy 500 — who are YOU picking?

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Several members of the NBC Sports motorsports staff have made their predictions on who will win Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Of the six voters, two are going with 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champ Josef Newgarden, while two others are going with Helio Castroneves to win a fourth 500, which would tie him with A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.

Here’s our picks. Who are YOU picking?

Leigh Diffey: Helio Castroneves — He drives the place better than anyone else. For me (for what its worth) he deserves a fourth 500 ring for the frustration he went through never getting the IndyCar title!

Townsend Bell: Josef Newgarden

Nate Ryan: Simon Pagenaud — All of his 2018 misfortune on the track has disappeared in May, and it culminates in the biggest victory of his career.

Jerry Bonkowski: Helio Castroneves – There’s no pressure as he pursues his fourth Indy 500 win. All Helio has to do, as late NFL owner Al Davis would say, is “Just win, baby!” (But if Helio falls short, watch for Marco Andretti)

Kyle Lavigne: Josef Newgarden — I think he has everything he needs to get it done this year.

Dan Beaver: Robert Wickens – Has driven like anything except a rookie and his second-place finish at Phoenix proves he’s just as good on an oval as the road courses.

Follow: Jerry Bonkowski