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Brown: McLaren still targeting top five in F1 pecking order this year

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McLaren executive director Zak Brown says the team is still aiming to better its performance from last year despite currently sitting last in the Formula 1 constructors’ championship after five races.

McLaren has been hamstrung by issues with the power unit supplied by Honda, which has lacked both reliability and performance so far this season following a redesign over the winter.

The team has seen the checkered flag just three times so far this season and is yet to finish on the lead lap, leaving it at the foot of the teams’ standings. It is also the only team not to score a point so far this season.

Speaking to the official F1 website, Brown said that even with its current problems, McLaren’s pre-season target remains unchanged as it looks to grow in strength ahead of 2018.

“We want to be better than we were in 2016; that remains. Whether that is in the final points tally, that will probably be difficult,” Brown said.

“But finishing the season and being more competitive than a sixth-place team, that is the goal and that has not changed.”

Brown admitted that he thought McLaren would be stronger this year than it has been, but remains confident that time can be made up through the remainder of the campaign.

” I thought we would have improved from 2016, which clearly we have not after the Barcelona race where things looked promising for a blink of an eye with Fernando [Alonso]’s grid position. But it didn’t work in the race.

“But I am optimistic that we will catch and pass our 2016 performance at the end of the year.”

Daniel Ricciardo to decide soon about moving from Red Bull to another F1 team

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LE CASTELLET, France (AP) Daniel Ricciardo says over the next six weeks he wants to decide between staying at Red Bull or joining another Formula One team for next year.

Ricciardo said on Thursday at the French Grand Prix, “It would be nice to go on the summer break knowing what I am doing.”

F1 is working its way toward its three-week break in August with speculation mounting that Mercedes, Ferrari, and McLaren are interested in luring Ricciardo away from Red Bull for 2019.

“I will be honest, everyone is talking about Mercedes and Ferrari as potential places for me to go, and I am aware that there will be interest from other teams,” he said.

The Australian driver has won seven races in his four-plus seasons with Red Bull. He is fourth in the standings behind leader Sebastian Vettel heading into the race at the Paul Ricard Circuit near Marseille.

Ricciardo’s stock has risen in recent months after his victories in Shanghai and Monaco. His Monaco win was particularly impressive because Ricciardo had to deploy some masterful defensive driving to protect his lead after losing an estimated 25 percent of his engine power.

Ricciardo said he had not directly spoken to rivals Ferrari and Mercedes, but he hedged when asked if his manager had.

“People talk, have coffees, I will leave that one open-ended,” he said with a laugh.

Ricciardo called the decision on whether to go or stay with Red Bull the biggest choice of his career following his decision to leave his native Australia and continue his racing career in Europe over a decade ago.

“For sure the priority is to get a car to win the world title because I really believe I can,” he said. “I am slightly careful because it is easy to think the grass is greener and maybe it is, but I also have it pretty good where I am.

“People do like a change but just to make change for the sake of making a change is not enough for me. I need to find some substance behind it to jump ship.”

Red Bull announced recently it would be ending its 12-year partnership with engine-maker Renault and switching to Honda motors for next year.

Ricciardo was hesitant to endorse or criticize the change, saying he was going to “try to keep putting the pieces together if it is a good move.”

But with the question of the engine manufacturer out of the way, Ricciardo said Red Bull would likely be looking to resolve its drivers’ lineup for next year.

“I haven’t been pushed yet, but I would say that there will be some movement in the next week,” he said. “Whether that is something that gets put down on paper (or not), for sure the discussions will start to ramp up in the next few days.”