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F1: Brendon Hartley faces order to get better to keep Toro Rosso seat

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — Toro Rosso Team Principal Franz Tost sent a direct message Friday to struggling driver Brendon Hartley: Get better or get ready to be gone.

“He has to improve his performance if he wants to stay in the team,” Tost said at the Mexican Grand Prix

And that comes after Hartley’s season-best finish of ninth after starting last at the U.S. Grand Prix last week in Texas. He got there after Haas F1’s Kevin Magnussen and Force India’s Esteban Ocon were disqualified to elevate Hartley into the points. The season is down to its final three races.

Hartley had a good day at practice Friday, running ninth in the morning practice session and sixth in the afternoon. His late run was one spot ahead of season championship-leader Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes.

“It’s great to come out punching after a few really good races for me, and I’m feeling good about the weekend so far,” Hartley said.

Tost noted Hartley has four points this season compared to teammate Pierre Gasly’s 28. Gasly is being promoted to Red Bull in 2019. Toro Rosso has already announced it is bringing back former team driver Danill Kvyat next season but hasn’t said who his racing partner will be.

No final decisions will be made until after the season, Tost said.

“You have to finish the season to get a clear picture,” Tost said. “In December Red Bull will decide the driver lineup of Toro Rosso.”

Hartley got a seat with Toro Rosso late last season and was the first driver from New Zealand in Formula One in 30 years. He’s been consistently outperformed by his teammate all season.

Hartley signed with Red Bull’s young driver program as a teenager, but lasted only a short while before he was cut. He moved into a successful career in endurance racing where he won a world championship. His return to the Red Bull program came a decade after he was first let go.

Christopher Bell survives caution-filled Chili Bowl Prelim

TeeJay Crawford
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Christopher Bell survived the most caution-filled Feature of the week to win Thursday’s preliminary night at the 33rd Annual Chili Bowl. His ability to hold the lead on restarts helped lock Bell into his seventh Saturday A-Feature since 2013.

“I pretty much suck on restarts. I do better when I get into a rhythm,” said Christopher Bell on twitter.

Bell started the feature in third place behind Danny Stratton and Jerry Coons Jr. He took the lead on the first official lap of the race, but not until after two Lap 1 cautions.

The Oklahoma native held the lead through the remaining 24 laps and eight cautions until being challenged by Shane Golobic and CJ Leary on the final laps. Golobic briefly made it past him though Turns 3 and 4 of the final lap. Bell regained control in 1 and 2 to claim the checkers.

“It was a lot busier than what I wanted them to be. Shane definitely made a race out of it and I hope the last four laps were a good show. It was a lot of fun … well it was fun because I won but if I hadn’t won it wouldn’t have been much fun,” Bell said regarding the final laps.

Golobic earned the second transfer into Saturday’s A-Main after starting to the outside of Bell.

Leary completed the podium with the pole sitter Stratton finished fourth.

Josh Most battled through the B after a hard crash in his heat. He rebounded to transfer to the A and drove from 22nd to fifth.

With the throng of cautions at the start and finish of the race, the goal quickly became survival. Only 15 of 24 entries completed the full feature. Notable DNF’s included Ryan Bernal who started fifth, Coons, who started on the front row and Thomas Meseraull in 15th.

NASCAR’s Justin Allgaier finished 13th and will have a long day ahead of him on Saturday.

Friday Jan. 18 will be the final Qualifying night for the 33rd annual Chili Bowl Nationals.

MORE: Rico Abreu wins Chili Bowl Night 3 
MORE: Kyle Larson wins Chili Bowl Night 2

Thursday’s Results

1. Christopher Bell
2. Shane Golobic
3. CJ Leary
4. Danny Stratton
5. Josh Most
6. Austin Brown
7. Tracy Hines
8. Casey Shuman
9. Kyle Cummins
10. Andrew Felker
11. Austin O’Dell
12. Seth Carlson
13. Justin Allgaier
14. Chase Johnson
15. Johnny Herrera
16. Ryan Bernal
17. Jerry Coons Jr.
18. Matt Sherrell
19. Thomas Meseraull
20. Jake Morgan
21. Andrew Deal
22. Kevin Bayer
23. Kaleb Currie
24. Joe B. Miller