Driver shortlist for 2015 Toro Rosso seat confirmed

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Scuderia Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost has confirmed that four drivers are in the running for the second seat at the team in 2015.

17-year-old Max Verstappen is set to become the youngest ever driver to start a grand prix in 2015 when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso, and he was due to partner current driver Daniil Kvyat.

However, following Sebastian Vettel’s shock decision to quit Red Bull at the end of 2015, Kvyat was confirmed as his replacement last weekend, continuing the team’s policy of promoting young drivers from its B team.

This has left Toro Rosso considering its options for 2015 once again, and although Formula Renault 3.5 championship leader Carlos Sainz Jr. seems to be the obvious choice, Tost has said that there are other options being considered.

“There are also other drivers [besides Sainz],” Tost said. “We have Jean-Eric Vergne, which is an experienced driver, we have Carlos Sainz Jr which is currently leading the 3.5 litre Renault championship, then we have Pierre Gasly, we have [Alex] Lynn.

“Fortunately Red Bull has a lot of very fast, high skilled drivers in the driver pool and within the next weeks, Red Bull will decide who will get this seat.”

The inclusion of Jean-Eric Vergne may come as a surprise to many, given that he has enjoyed two years at the team already. Kvyat’s promotion appears to have given him something of a reprieve, but it still seems unlikely that he will be kept on given that Red Bull has passed over him twice now. Christian Horner, team principal at Red Bull Racing, has also suggested that Vergne is not a candidate for the seat.

Sainz’s case is perhaps the strongest, given his form in the Formula Renault 3.5 championship this season. He is set to win the title in Jerez later this month, and has also been linked with a seat at Caterham towards the end of 2014.

Unlike Sainz, Pierre Gasly does not stand much of a chance of securing the seat despite a very impressive debut season in the Formula Renault 3.5 series this year. The French youngster has enjoyed an impressive junior career, and although he is definitely a driver that should grace F1 in the next few years, it may be a bit too early for him in 2015.

Alex Lynn would be the ‘curveball’ choice for Red Bull. The British driver is on course to win the GP3 championship – just as Kvyat did in 2013 – and could be the man to deny Sainz his F1 debut. If he doesn’t get the nod, a move up the ladder to GP2 would be logical for next season.

It is clear why Red Bull’s junior programme is the envy of the entire paddock, given the wealth of options available, but we should know who is moving up to F1 in 2015 in the next few weeks.

F1: Lewis Hamilton qualifies No. 1 for U.S. Grand Prix, on verge of winning 5th title

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Lewis Hamilton took a big step toward earning his fifth Formula One championship on Saturday, qualifying No. 1 for Sunday’s U.S. Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

Hamilton and his Mercedes have won five of the previous six U.S. Grand Prix’s held at COTA, including the last four races there.

The Great Britain native comes into Sunday’s race leading the F1 point standings and is seeking to tie Juan Manuel Fangio for second-most F1 career championships. Michael Schumacher has the most with seven crowns.

Sebastian Vettel is Hamilton’s sole remaining challenger for the title, trailing Hamilton by 67 points with four races to go, including Sunday’s race.

Vettel must win Sunday’s race or finish within seven points of Hamilton to prevent the latter from winning the title and pushing a possible clinching scenario to next week in Mexico.

Vettel qualified second Saturday, but due to a red-flag three-position grid penalty sustained during Friday’s morning practice, will start fifth on Sunday’s grid.

As a result of Vettel’s penalty, Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen will start alongside Hamilton on the front row for Sunday’s race.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, Vallteri Bottas, will start third, while Daniel Ricciardo will start fourth.

Rounding out the top 10 were Esteban Ocon, Nico Hulkenberg, Romain Grosjean, Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez.

Here’s how qualifying played out:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:34.130 1:33.480 1:32.237 20
2 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:34.569 1:33.079 1:32.298 18
3 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:34.703 1:32.884 1:32.307 15
4 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:34.518 1:33.702 1:32.616 17
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:34.755 1:34.185 1:33.494 14
6 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:34.876 1:34.522 1:34.145 18
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 1:34.932 1:34.564 1:34.215 18
8 8 RomainGrosjean HAAS FERRARI 1:34.892 1:34.419 1:34.250 17
9 16 Charles Leclerc SAUBER FERRARI 1:35.069 1:34.255 1:34.420 17
10 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:35.193 1:34.525 1:34.594 17
11 55 Carlos Sainz RENAULT 1:34.891 1:34.566 12
12 20 KevinMagnussen HAAS FERRARI 1:34.972 1:34.732 12
13 10 Pierre Gasly SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 1:34.850 DNS 13
14 28 Brendon Hartley SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 1:35.206 DNS 13
15 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:34.766 4
16 14 FernandoAlonso MCLAREN RENAULT 1:35.294 6
17 35 Sergey Sirotkin WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:35.362 6
18 18 Lance Stroll WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:35.480 8
19 9 Marcus Ericsson SAUBER FERRARI 1:35.536 8
20 2 StoffelVandoorne MCLAREN RENAULT 1:35.735 6

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