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Renault: Speculation Palmer could be dropped for Malaysia ‘unfair’

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Renault Formula 1 chief Cyril Abiteboul has called speculation Jolyon Palmer could be dropped for the next race in Malaysia “unfair”, stressing there is a contract in place until the end of the season.

Renault announced on Friday it had signed Carlos Sainz Jr. on loan from Red Bull for the 2018 season to partner Nico Hulkenberg, leaving Palmer without a seat for next year.

The 2014 GP2 champion has struggled to make an impact in F1, scoring just a single point in 32 races, and looks unlikely to remain in the sport next year.

Speculation has been rife that Renault was looking to get Sainz in the car as early as the Malaysian Grand Prix in two weeks’ time as part of the deal to sign him.

Palmer was adamant on Thursday that his contract was firm until the end of the season, and Abiteboul backed this up, hitting back at the speculation.

“The reality is that Carlos will be in the car in Melbourne in 2019. Referring to the situation of Jo, it’s a speculation that we – him and the team – have had to live with for… I don’t know how many races,” Abiteboul said.

“Frankly it’s really difficult on Jo, and a bit unfair on Jo and the team. To a certain degree, it maybe has had a negative impact on his ongoing performance.

“Right now, what I see is that we have a car that is capable of scoring points in Singapore. That’s the focus and we have an ongoing contract with Jo until the end of the season.”

Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost said he was “not aware” of any possibility of Sainz leaving early for Renault, despite having Red Bull youngster Pierre Gasly ready to make the step up if required.

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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