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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.

Steve Torrence takes NHRA points lead with Gatornationals victory

NHRA Gainesville Steve Torrence
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two-time defending NHRA Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence took the points lead Sunday in the AMALIE Motor Oil Gatornationals, beating his father, Billy, in the final round at Gainesville Raceway.

Torrence had a 3.809-second run at 322.11 mph to win for the third time this year and 39th overall. He is now on track for another championship despite missing the season opener.

“We’ve got some good momentum and to be in the points lead, it’s a testament to how hard these guys work,” Steve Torrence said after the NHRA Gainesville victory. “We’ve just got to stay focused and concentrate on what the task at hand is, and that’s trying to win a championship. These guys give me an unbelievable race car and you just try not to screw it up.”

Ron Capps won in Funny Car, Alex Laughlin in Pro Stock and Matt Smith in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Capps raced to his second win this year and 66th overall, beating Tim Wilkerson with a 3.937 at 323.12 in a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat.

Laughlin topped Aaron Stanfield with a 7.068 at 204.76 in a Chevrolet Camaro for his first win this season and fourth in his career. Smith rode to his first victory in 2020 and 25th overall, topping Andrew Hines with a 6.843 at 196.99 on an EBR.