Toro Rosso to make 2015 driver decision after Abu Dhabi

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Scuderia Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost has said that the team will not be making a final decision about its driver line-up for the 2015 season until after the end of the current campaign.

The fight for the second seat at Faenza is wide open, with 17-year-old Max Verstappen claiming the first drive and completing some very impressive practice running towards the end of the current season.

Formula Renault 3.5 champion Carlos Sainz Jr., vice-champion Pierre Gasly, GP3’s Alex Lynn and current Toro Rosso driver Jean-Eric Vergne are all in the running for the seat, but Tost says that no final decision will be made until after the final round of the 2014 season in Abu Dhabi.

“Everything is still open. Nothing is decided yet,” Tost told the official Formula 1 website. “Red Bull will make a decision within the next weeks and then we will know whether we will head into the 2015 season with two rookies or with one experienced driver and one rookie.

“It will be close to Abu Dhabi, the week after Abu Dhabi. We have the luxury of time. There is no hurry.”

Despite being previously excluded from the shortlist, Jean-Eric Vergne is firmly back in the running for a third season at Toro Rosso, with the team suggesting that an experienced driver might be better to aid the development of Verstappen in 2015. Vergne himself believes that being kept on will be best for the team as well as for his own career.

The delay until after Abu Dhabi gives something of a reprieve to both Lynn and Gasly, who will be racing in support series at Yas Marina later this month. Lynn is poised to clinch the GP3 championship, but will need to dominate the race weekend to truly put himself in the frame for a seat at Toro Rosso in 2015.

Current driver Daniil Kvyat will move up to Red Bull in 2015, replacing Sebastian Vettel.

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Ben Hanley relieved to make Indy 500 debut

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Qualifying for the Indy 500 is never an easy task, especially for a new driver and team, and with 36 cars vying for 33 starting positions last weekend, 34-year-old rookie Ben Hanley knew there was a chance he and his DragonSpeed team would not make the show.

“I wouldn’t say we were very confident, but we wanted to [make the field],” Hanley told NBC Sports. “The biggest thing we were trying to achieve was to not be on track on Sunday in the shootout because it only takes one mistake or one little issue and that’s it, you’re not in the race.”

But Hanley would not have to worry about being bumped from the field. He qualified 27th after making three attempts on Day 1, which was enough to lock the No. 81 team into the show. Not too shabby for a driver and team making only their third NTT IndyCar Series start.

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“That last run everything just came together,” Hanley said. “We trimmed out a little bit more and found a good balance of trim and grip over four [qualifying] laps and it was enough to get us through.

“It was a huge relief to get through in P27. A massive achievement for everybody involved.”

Indeed it was a massive achievement, as DragonSpeed is one of the smallest teams in the garage, with no corporate sponsors and a tiny team of around 20 personnel. Many of those were picked up by the team just a week before qualifying, when members of the team’s regular crew were denied entry into the United States due to visa issues after leaving a sports car race in Italy.

“It was all down to the team organizing some people who were in and around Indianapolis who weren’t needed for the race weekend,” Hanley said. “Obviously, I don’t think many people are going to refuse the chance to work on a car that’s trying to qualify for the 500.”

Though the team made its first Indy 500 on Day 1 of qualifying, the DragonSpeed team did not spend Saturday night out late celebrating. Instead, Hanley said the extra time was spent preparing for the race.

“We went straight on to race prep then for the car, so Sunday was a good day for the guys to take time to prep the car into the race spec and get everything sorted out in a nice, organized manner.”

Following the Indy 500, DragonSpeed will run two other races this season at Road America and Mid-Ohio. The team is hopeful that a good run at Indy will result in an opportunity to run a bigger schedule next season and attract sponsors.

Hanley stated that though he’s happy to have made the Indy 500 starting grid for the first time in his career, the magnitude of his feat hasn’t hit him yet.

“It hasn’t really soaked in yet,” he said. “I think it will soak in on Sunday when we roll out to the grid.

“It was such a huge relief to not be involved in Bump Day. Even just watching [Bump Day] it was intense, especially with the weather. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to be involved in that.”

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