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Toro Rosso will consider Honda requests on F1 2018 driver line-up

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Scuderia Toro Rosso chief Franz Tost says the team will take into consideration any requests from Formula 1 engine partner Honda when it comes to decide on its driver line-up for next season.

Toro Rosso and Honda announced a new engine partnership on Friday starting from next season, the Japanese marque having agreed a mutual split with existing customer team McLaren at the end of the year.

An off-shoot of the deal was Carlos Sainz Jr. moving up to Renault for 2018, freeing up at least one seat at Toro Rosso for next year, which currently also fields Daniil Kvyat.

Red Bull has used Toro Rosso as a first step in F1 for its young drivers, with 2016 GP2 champion Pierre Gasly waiting for an opportunity to step up.

Honda has also aided the career of Japanese racer Nobuharu Matsushita in recent years as part of McLaren’s junior program, leading him to be linked with the Toro Rosso seat.

When asked about Toro Rosso’s driver plans for 2018, Tost said that no decision would be rushed into, with considerations from all parties being taken into account.

“Currently we have two quite successful and competitive drivers with Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz, and I assume that they will finish the season with us,” Tost said.

“Regarding the drivers for next year, Red Bull will decide who is driving with us, and of course we will also take into consideration any request from our partners.”

While Gasly appears to be a shoo-in for one of the Toro Rosso F1 seats in 2018, Matushita’s chances of stepping up seem limited given the requirement to score 40 FIA super license points in a three-year period.

As things stand, Matsushita has four points to his name, scored for coming ninth in GP2 in 2015, meaning he must finish in the top three of the F2 standings this year to hit the required figure.

With four races to go, Matsushita is sixth in the standings, 37 points shy of third-placed Artem Markelov.

Fernando Alonso will decide this summer whether to pursue F1 again

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Fernando Alonso said he will determine by this summer if he would consider a return to Formula One next season.

After announcing Tuesday that he will return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May with Arrow McLaren Racing SP, Alonso said “right now the Indy 500 will take all of my concentration” but left the door open for F1 in 2021.

“In my case, probably during the summer period, I’ll make a decision on 2021 if Formula One is still appealing to me,” Alonso told IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview (watch the video above). “The 2021 rules (in F1) are definitely a step forward, and hopefully things can be more mixed and not only three teams capable of winning races. So all this factors into play. I may consider that possibility.”

Alonso won consecutive Formula One championships in 2005-06 with Renault. He has 32 victories in an F1 career that started in 2001 and also includes stints at Ferrari and McLaren.

His last victory on the circuit was May 12, 2013 in Barcelona. He is winless in his most recent 110 starts, including the past 77 races with McLaren in 2015-18.

The Guardian recently reported that McLaren CEO Zak Brown said Alonso wouldn’t be returning to F1 with the team.

Alonso also told Diffey that returning to F1 from a two-season absence wouldn’t necessarily be linked to McLaren’s performance.

“I think they did well last year, and hopefully they make another step forward and close to the top three because they deserve it and are a fantastic team,” he said.

Though he is optimistic about more parity, Alonso said six-time champion Lewis Hamilton should be a favorite for the 2020 title based on preseason testing in which Mercedes turned heads with a new steering system.

“It seemed Mercedes is still quite competitive,” Alonso said. “They show enormous potential on the development side and on the progress from one year to next. Formula One is impossible to predict because many things happen in season.

“At the starting point, (Mercedes) are the favorites. When you have Lewis in the car and Mercedes with the potential they have, they have to be No. 1 probably.”