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Honda’s 2018 F1 fortunes could dictate Ricciardo’s Red Bull future

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Daniel Ricciardo has conceded that Honda’s performances with Toro Rosso in Formula 1 next year could dictate his future amid speculation of a similar engine deal for Red Bull in 2019.

Toro Rosso, Red Bull’s F1 B-team, announced on Friday in Singapore it would be working with Honda from the start of next season, with the Japanese marque’s existing deal with McLaren being terminated by mutual consent at the end of the year.

The deal has been tipped as a precursor for a future link-up between Red Bull and Honda in 2019 following paddock suggestions that Renault will stop working with the team at the end of next season, having picked up McLaren as a customer team this week.

Honda’s struggles since returning to F1 in 2015 have been well-documented, causing the McLaren relationship to fracture due to a lack of performance and reliability from its power units.

With his contract set to expire at the end of next year, Ricciardo is set to be a key player in the driver market for 2019 when seats at every single team on the grid are due to be available.

Should a deal with Honda be struck for Red Bull, Ricciardo conceded he would take its performances with Toro Rosso into account next year when it came to deciding his future.

“I guess next year would be a pretty big year for that to assess what is going to happen, how they’ll look, how Honda is with where it’s at,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“You’d assess the situation and go from there. It’s so early to think about it.

“But I’ll think about it next year, and that’ll dictate where I go.”

When asked directly if Honda would be supplying engines to Red Bull in 2019, general motorsport manager Masashi Yamamoto admitted on Friday it could be an option.

“Our main goal now is to absolutely concentrate on 2018 and Toro Rosso. We are going to give our best to achieve our best performance together as a team,” Yamamoto said.

“But if there is a chance in the future to supply engines, why not?”

The only driver who looks locked in for 2019 is Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari, with the rest of the field being free agents come the end of next season, including Ricciardo’s current teammate Max Verstappen.

Ferrari is understood to have expressed an interest in signing Ricciardo before, potentially rekindling the Australian’s partnership with Vettel at Red Bull from 2014.

Mercedes will also have two free seats for 2019, with both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas’ contracts expiring at the end of 2018.

Talking about Red Bull’s current driver line-up, team boss Christian Horner said he saw no reason to make any changes moving forward, but that there were plenty of options should they be required.

“Both of our drivers are currently under contract at least for next year, and it’s down to us to produce a good car and be competitive. Then, of course, why would the drivers want to be anywhere else?” Horner said.

“We’re not short of options on drivers, but our preference is absolutely to retain the two that we have in the car at the moment.”

Female racer makes history with record finishes in dirt national midget events

Photo courtesy Toyota Racing
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Holly Shelton is riding high after setting a milestone for a female driver in a national midget series feature event on dirt this past weekend.

The Sacramento, California-area resident recorded the highest finish ever for a female dirt national midget series driver with a runner-up finish last Friday at the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League double-header weekend at Valley Speedway in Grain Valley, Missouri.

Shelton broke her own national record for top finish by a woman in a national dirt event – she finished third in a USAC race at Lawrenceburg, Indiana, last year.

One night after setting her new national record, Shelton and her Keith Kunz Motorsports Toyota roared back Saturday to finish third (started on the outside pole) in the second half of the weekend double-header, making her the first female dirt driver ever on the national midget circuit to earn back-to-back podium finishes.

“It’s cool making history as a female, but my number one thing is I just want to win,” said Shelton, who will be graduating from Cal-State Sacramento with a B.A. in Criminal Justice this fall. “Truthfully, on the track I don’t even remember that I’m a girl. I’m just racing all the guys with the same goal they have – to win.”

Only one other woman has finished second in either a USAC or POWRi midget feature – Sarah McCune at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway in 1999 – but that was on pavement, not dirt.

The record-setting weekend was great consolation for Shelton, who missed three races earlier this season due to surgery and then sat out three other races last month after suffering a race-related concussion.

“It felt good,” she said of her back-to-back podium finishes. “It builds up my confidence. The car is fast and we keep getting better and we want to build on it.”

Shelton was one of four women that competed in midget competition this weekend. The others were 19-year-old Maria Cofer and 16-year-olds Holley Hollan and Presley Truedson.

“It’s awesome seeing all the little girls come up to me excited to see me at the track,” Shelton said. “Hopefully, it encourages them to pursue their dreams as well and, as the years go on, more girls will get into it.”

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