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Renault F1 confirms loan signing of Carlos Sainz Jr. for 2018

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Renault has confirmed the signing of Carlos Sainz Jr. from Scuderia Toro Rosso for the 2018 Formula 1 season, announced on Friday in Singapore.

Sainz, 23, will partner Nico Hulkenberg at Renault next year after three seasons with Toro Rosso, joining on loan from Red Bull, which retains an option to recall him in the future.

The move was agreed as part of the deal for McLaren and Toro Rosso to swap engine supplies for 2018, linking up with Renault and Honda respectively, also anounced on Friday.

“I’m very happy to be joining Renault Sport Formula One Team. To be a Formula 1 driver for a manufacturer team is an honor and I hope to reward Renault’s faith in me with my very best performances on track,” Sainz said.

“The trajectory of Renault Sport Formula One Team is exciting and I’m proud to join at such an important time in their history. I am looking forward to working with everyone at Enstone and Viry, and driving alongside Nico Hülkenberg.

“I have worked closely with Renault in Formula 1 and previously in motorsport, so I know their motivation and capabilities.

“This is the start of a very exciting new chapter in my career. I would like to say thank you to Red Bull for all their confidence and support and for allowing me to take this opportunity.

“Last but not least, I especially want to thank all the people that work in Toro Rosso. They are a fantastic team of professionals and I wish them the best for the future.”

Sainz has enjoyed backing from Red Bull throughout his racing career, moving into F1 in 2015 with Toro Rosso after winning the Formula Renault 3.5 title.

Despite being put in the shade by the hype surrounding teammate Max Verstappen, Sainz impressed throughout his debut campaign and established himself as team leader following Verstappen’s promotion and Daniil Kvyat’s arrival.

Sainz caused a stir over the Austrian Grand Prix weekend earlier this year when he said a fourth year at Toro Rosso in 2018 was “unlikely”, only for Red Bull’s bosses to remind him that he remained under contract for next year.

With Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo locked in at the senior team leaving Sainz no room to move up, Red Bull admitted it would be open to letting him leave should the right offer come along.

Despite being linked with moves for Fernando Alonso and Robert Kubica to partner Hulkenberg, Renault settled on Sainz as its top target for a 2018 seat to replace the struggling Jolyon Palmer.

Crunch talks with McLaren over the Italian Grand Prix weekend led to Sainz coming into the picture, with Renault using him as leverage for agreeing to end its Toro Rosso contract early so it could join up with Honda.

The deal also paves the way for Red Bull junior Pierre Gasly to move up to F1 next year with Toro Rosso, having won the GP2 title last year and spent this season racing in Japan’s Super Formula series.

Gasly is poised to partner Kvyat, although it has been suggested that Honda youngster Nobuharu Matsushita could be placed at Toro Rosso should he amass the required FIA super license points before the end of the season.

Formula 1 2018 – Confirmed Drivers and Teams

Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas
Ferrari: Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen
Red Bull: Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen
Force India: TBA, TBA
Williams: TBA, TBA
McLaren: Stoffel Vandoorne, TBA
Toro Rosso: TBA, TBA
Haas: Romain Grosjean, Kevin Magnussen
Renault: Carlos Sainz Jr, Nico Hulkenberg
Sauber: TBA, TBA

Title contenders stumble on the streets of Toronto

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The championship picture of the Verizon IndyCar Series saw a massive shakeup after Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto. While points leader Scott Dixon ended up in victory lane, his third win on the streets of Toronto and his third win of the 2018 season, all of his championship rivals stumbled.

Josef Newgarden, the pole sitter and second-place man in championship – he trailed Dixon by 33 points entering Sunday – led from the pole and looked to be a contender for the win, but a Lap 34 restart saw his day come apart.

Newgarden ran wide exiting the final corner coming to the green flag and smacked the outside wall. He plummeted through the field and pitted under caution – for a Turn 1 pileup involving Graham Rahal, Max Chilton, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power, and Sebastien Bourdais – to allow the No. 1 Hitachi Chevrolet Team Penske group to examine the car for damage.

Newgarden continued on, but was never a contender the rest of the day, ultimately finishing ninth.

“I knew it would be low grip, but not zero grip. I just lost the front end completely,” Newgarden said in describing how the wall contact happened. “I feel terrible, it’s not fun to make a mistake.”

Alexander Rossi, who sits third in the championship, ran a steady sixth in the first stint until Lap 27, when contact with Will Power damaged his front wing. Rossi was then caught up in the melee on the Lap 34 restart, getting airborne over the left-front of his Andretti Autosport teammate Hunter-Reay.

Rossi again pitted for a new front wing – he had six stops in total – and ended up eighth on a day when he felt like a podium beckoned.

“It’s a pretty disappointing result. I don’t think we had the car to beat Scott (Dixon), but for sure with the problems that everyone had, we could’ve finished second. It’s been a difficult string of races,” Rossi said afterward.

Hunter-Reay, too, had a day forget. After going from sixth to third on the start, he spun his No. 28 DHL Honda into the Turn 3 Barrier on Lap 27. And like Rossi, he was caught up in the Lap 34 pileup, falling off the lead lap in the process.

Hunter-Reay languished in 16th at the checkered flag.

“It was a very unfortunate day and a big loss for us in points,” Hunter-Reay lamented. “The DHL Honda was running comfortable in third and pushing hard, but I had too much front brake lock and found the tire barrier – that’s my fault. Then after that, we got caught up in a wreck, which put us a lap down. From there we just fought to stay in front of the leader.”

Power, too, hit his struggles after the first stint, when contact with the Turn 11 wall, an incident similar to the one that his Team Penske teammate Newgarden had, bent the right-rear suspension of his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet. He also had contact with Rossi later that lap.

Power lost two laps in the pits as the team made repairs, and he took the checkered flag in 18th.

“In the last corner, I brushed the wall and bent a rear toe link, so the car was a little bit out of whack. I didn’t even know that (Alexander) Rossi and I touched. I was just kind of trying to hang on until we got a yellow and could pit,” Power explained. “I’ve never had so many DNFs; not DNF for this race, but like a DNF in a season. Still, it’s kind of how this sport can go.”

All told, their struggles mean that Dixon leads the championship by 62 points over Newgarden. Rossi sits third, 70 points of the lead, followed by Hunter-Reay and Power, who sit 91 and 93 points out of the lead respectively.

And the next race, the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (July 29 on NBCSN) won’t make it easy for them to make up ground, as Dixon’s record there is astoundingly strong. The four-time IndyCar champion has five wins at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, his most recent triumph coming in 2014, a race in which he famously came from last on the grid (22nd) to win.

Conversely, Newgarden, Rossi, Hunter-Reay, and Power have a combined one win at Mid-Ohio (Newgarden, last year).

However, the likes of Newgarden and Rossi still appear confident that they can make up for their Toronto struggles.

“We have to move on now and try to pick it back up. With the championship battle, we’ve got a long way to go. This doesn’t help but look, we have plenty of racing (left),” said Newgarden. “We need to keep our head up here. We’re going to be just fine, we’ve got fast cars and the best in the business. If we get our mistakes sorted out, we’re going to be just fine.”

Rossi, who finished sixth at Mid-Ohio last year, echoed similar sentiment, and thinks Mid-Ohio presents an opportunity to get back on track.

“We’re very good at Mid-Ohio, we’re kind of circling Toronto and Mid-Ohio as two races we were going to be pretty good at, so we got to reset, man, and just execute,” Rossi explained afterward. “We’re fast. We’re there every weekend. That’s the important thing. It’s a lot harder to be outside the top 10 and looking for answers. We’re fighting for pole every weekend. We’re in the Fast Six virtually every weekend, so you’re putting yourself in position to have a good result, it hasn’t come really since Texas.”

The 2018 championship is far from over – the season-ending GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma being a double-points event helps ensure as much. But, if Dixon does claim the 2018 title, Toronto may be the race that serves as the turning point.

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