Toro Rosso talks with Honda 'progressing'

Sean Gelael, Toro Rosso, Hungaroring test
© XPB 

Speculation that Toro Rosso is in talks with Honda about a possible engine supply for 2018 appear to be gathering momentum.

Reports say that a meeting took place on Tuesday between Red Bull's Helmut Marko and Honda chief Masashi Yamamoto. According to is was the latest of a series of such discussions, which are said to be progressing.

"We are talking to teams - other than works outfits like Ferrari and Mercedes - to see if there is an opportunity to do a customer supply deal," Yamamoto said last week.

Yamamoto is responsible for Honda's motorsport budget and reports directly to the motoring giant's board. Honda is looking for a new second team to run alongside McLaren, after its deal with Sauber fell through.

Toro Rosso now appears to be the leading candidate despite having a deal with Renault for 2018. If a partnership between Honda and Toro Rosso did bear fruit, then it could lead to Red Bull Racing coming on board in the future. The senior team's own relations with Renault have been strained in recent seasons.

However, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was tight-lipped when asked about the reports in Hungary.

"I'm not going to comment on rumours or ask about the source of your information," he said. "I think there's an awful lot of rumours about Honda at the moment, but I have nothing to say."

Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz was equally circumspect: "It is a rumour and so I will not comment," Sainz told Spanish national daily sport newspaper Marca. "If it happens I will give my opinion without any problem."

McLaren itself could be part of the arrangement if it were to supply gearboxes to Toro Rosso. However, whether McLaren will stay with Honda in 2018 or seek power units elsewhere is still in doubt.

"Honda is staying in formula one and with McLaren. We have a contract," insisted Yamamoto.

As well as a change in engine suppliers, Toro Rosso is also rumoured to be eyeing a livery switch. With Seal Gelael testing for the team this week in Hungary, it's reported that the team might get backing from global fast food chain KFC.

Gelael's father Ricardo runs Jangonya Ayam, the Indonesian branch of KFC. He was linked with a possible takeover of the now defunct Manor F1 team at the end of 2016.

This week, Spanish newspaper El Confidencial posed the question: "Will Toro Rosso paint their cars like KFC?"

It comes after the younger Gelael's performance at the Hungaroring got a thumbs up from Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost.

"His performance was very good and he did not stop improving on every lap," the paper reported. "Comparing him with Kvyat and Sainz, he was very good in braking, attacking the kerbs and in slow corners.

"If he continues like this he will come to F1 with success,"

But veteran Formula 1 correspondent Roger Benoit didn't think much of Gelael's chances, or the possibility of a KFC-sponsored team.

"Gelael is supported by Kentucky Fried Chicken millions at home," he told Blick. "But his Formula 1 chances are rather low."

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