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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.