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Red Bull to open Ricciardo F1 contract talks early in new season

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Red Bull plans to begin negotiations with Daniel Ricciardo over a new Formula 1 contract early in the new season, according to team boss Christian Horner.

Five-time grand prix winner Ricciardo enters the final year of his contract with Red Bull in 2018, and has been linked with moves away to rivals Mercedes and Ferrari for the following season.

Red Bull has made clear it intends to keep Ricciardo for 2019 and beyond to partner Max Verstappen, who penned a new long-term deal with the team in October.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Horner said that while he did not wish to begin talks too early after a lengthy season, talks would begin early in 2018.

“We’ve just come through a long hard season, so the last thing we’re going to be doing is getting into the depths of contract discussions,” Horner explained.

“But I think early in the new year, once we’ve seen how the car’s performing, how things are panning out, then it’s our priority to make sure that we retain Daniel in the team until at least 2020.

“It’s a different scenario for Daniel. It’s the first time he’s effectively a free agent.

“It’s also a critical time in his career, he’s 28 years of age. This next step is going to be crucial for him.

“We just want to make sure we give him the right car to be able to deliver his potential.”

Ricciardo has taken all five of his F1 wins with Red Bull, having joined the team in 2014 following Mark Webber’s retirement.

The majority of Ricciardo’s racing career has been spent under the energy drink giant’s motorsport umbrella, enjoying backing in Formula Renault 3.5 before stepping up to F1.

With Verstappen, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel all committed to long-term deals and world champion Lewis Hamilton expected to extend his Mercedes deal, Ricciardo appears to be the highest-profile driver on the market for 2019.

Five things to watch for in Bommarito Auto Group 500 at Gateway

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There have been five different winners in the last five weeks of the NTT IndyCar season and driver that kicked off that streak in Elkhart Lake is in desperate need of a victory to help close the points gap to the leader. After being involved in the Lap 1 accident at Pocono Raceway last week, Alexander Rossi sits 35 points behind Josef Newgarden. Rossi’s two victories this season have come on road courses.

This week’s Bommarito Auto Group 500 the World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway is the third race on this track since IndyCar first revisited it in 2017. Newgarden took the checkers in 2017; Will Power grabbed the glory last year. Gateway also hosted races from 2001-2003.

Here are some of the storylines to watch this Sunday:

  1. For most of the drivers in the field, this will mark only their third time to race at Gateway, but two drivers were around in 2003 when IndyCar visited this track previously. Scott Dixon finished 15th in that race. He found the handle when Indy returned in 2017 to finish second and then third last year. Tony Kanaan was second in 2003; unfortunately he went the other direction and has not scored a top-10 at Gateway since.
  2. If one is looking for perfection on this track type, Simon Pagenaud is the only driver to sweep the top 10 on ovals in the past two years. In his last 10 starts on them, he has garnered an average finish of 5.2; his last five attempts have been sixth or better including a win in this year’s Indy 500. Pagenaud finished third at Gateway in 2017 and was fourth last year.
  3. The top two drivers in the points standings should also challenge for a top-five this week. Rossi was perfect alongside Pagenaud on ovals until his accident last week at Pocono with a sweep of the top 10 and seven top-fives in his last nine races. Newgarden also has nine top-10s and a worst of 13th on ovals in the past two years.
  4. Don’t count Dixon out of the points battle yet. While he currently sits 52 points out of first, Dixon is the hottest driver on the circuit with a current streak of five top-fives to his credit including his victory at Mid-Ohio two weeks ago. His oval record is a little spottier with two runner-up finishes and two 17th-place finishes in the last four races.
  5. Last week’s first-lap carnage ended Rossi’s top-10 streak at seven, but one other driver was able to sneak through and extend his. Graham Rahal will vie for his ninth consecutive top-10 this week, but that success is questionable in light of his Gateway record. Rahal finished 12th in 2017 and was barely able to crack the top 10 in 10th last year.

See More: IndyCar championship contenders seeing fortunes rise and drop

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