da Costa prime candidate for Toro Rosso seat

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Scuderia Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost believes that Red Bull youngster Antonio Felix da Costa is well-placed to join the team next season should current driver Daniel Ricciardo make the move to the world champions.

Following Mark Webber’s confirmation that he will be retiring at the end of the season, Red Bull have been assessing their options and have narrowed the shortlist down to Ricciardo and Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen. Ricciardo undertook a test for the team at Silverstone, putting himself in a good position to join Sebastian Vettel in 2014, but Tost has a plan in place should his driver leave.

“Antonio Felix da Costa is one of the candidates, but let’s wait for the decision of Red Bull and, if they take Daniel, we assess who will be the choice for our second seat,” Tost explained to Brazilian website totalrace.com.br.

This would see da Costa join Jean-Éric Vergne at the Italian team next season after Christian Horner confirmed that the Frenchman was no longer a consideration for Webber’s seat.

da Costa’s junior career has been highly impressive, finishing third in the GP3 championship last season as well winning the prestigious Macau Grand Prix. Like Ricciardo, he undertook some running for Red Bull at the Silverstone test as part of their young driver allocation, but he lacks the experience to immediately jump up to the senior team in the Red Bull family.

Of course, da Costa’s plans could be scuppered if Red Bull elect to hire Raikkonen for next season.

F1: Red Bull Racing confirms switch to Honda engines next season

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Honda will become Red Bull’s engine supplier from next season after the Formula One team confirmed its anticipated split with Renault on Tuesday.

The Japanese manufacturer will supply engines for 2019 and 2020, and Red Bull team principal Christian Horner hailed the deal as “an exciting new phase” in the bid to return to the top of F1.

“After careful consideration and evaluation, we are certain this partnership with Honda is the right direction for the team,” Horner said in a team statement. “We have been impressed by Honda’s commitment to F1, by the rapid steps they have made in recent times with our (feeder) team Toro Rosso.”

It is a boost for Honda, which was unceremoniously dumped by McLaren at the end of last year.

Honda has started this season brightly as engine provider for Toro Rosso, and this may have been a key factor in Red Bull finally ditching Renault.

“Honda’s alignment with both Red Bull Formula One teams provides enormous potential,” Horner said. “Honda will have access to a wealth of data from both outfits, with Aston Martin Red Bull Racing leading the way, and the opportunities for faster, more effective and more competitive development are doubled.”

The deal brings to an end Red Bull’s 12-year partnership with Renault.

Although relations became increasingly strained between the two parties in recent years, it was once a dream partnership as Red Bull and Renault won four straight drivers’ and constructors’ championships with Sebastian Vettel behind the wheel from 2010-13.

During that glory era, Vettel and teammate Mark Webber won 47 grand prix. Since 2013, results have somewhat dried up and there have been only 10 race wins.

“We have sometimes had our differences but Renault has always worked tirelessly and to the best of its ability to provide us with a competitive power unit,” Horner said.

He was not always quite so complimentary about Renault. He has regularly and publicly criticized Renault’s reliability in recent years – although it has been hard to judge sometimes.

Red Bull showed good speed toward the end of last season when Max Verstappen won two races, and teammate Daniel Ricciardo won this season’s Chinese GP with a brilliant drive. The difference in speed between Red Bull and Mercedes appears less than before, although Ferrari remains noticeably quicker.

Verstappen’s form has picked up after a poor start to 2018, marred by crashes, and he has taken third place in two of the past three races.

Meanwhile, McLaren’s partnership with Renault has not been as successful as they anticipated after dropping Honda following three fruitless seasons together.

Two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso has failed to finish the past two races and has yet to place higher than fifth. Renault teammate Nico Hulkenberg has a best finish of fourth place.