F1 Young Driver Tests - Abu Dhabi

da Costa poses threat to Toro Rosso drivers

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Scuderia Toro Rosso had a nightmare year in 2012, with drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne failing to live up to the hype which touted both as possible replacements for Mark Webber. After a disappointing showing in winter testing, both drivers will be looking over their shoulder as many drivers vie for their seats, and Antonio Felix da Costa appears to be the man in pole position should the team decided to make a change.

Unlike Toro Rosso, da Costa had a sensational 2012 season in GP3 and Formula Renault 3.5 as the Portuguese driver displayed his enormous talent. With Carlin, he finished third in GP3, and he ended up fourth in the Formula Renault 3.5 championship despite missing five of the seventeen races. da Costa will try to do even better in the series this season after he secured a full-time seat with Arden Caterham, whose links to F1 could be incredibly important. At the Young Driver Test in Abu Dhabi last year, da Costa drove for Red Bull, finishing second on day one and quickest on day two by over half a second. With Red Bull backing though, he appears to be the next driver in line to come from the family that has helped Sebastian Vettel develop into a three-time champion.

It is unlikely that Toro Rosso would opt to bring in da Costa mid-way through the season, as winter testing would give him the chance to get used to the car and prepare properly, as the likes of Bottas and Gutierrez have found this year. Yet if Vergne and Ricciardo have a particularly poor season, da Costa could be drafted in towards the end of 2013 where the risk is reduced (as there is less of the season to g0). This could prove to be a poor move for da Costa though: Nico Hulkenberg rejected Ferrari’s advances in 2009 as he did not want to be judged on half a season in a substandard car.

The way in which da Costa has been openly linked with Toro Rosso will hopefully give Ricciardo and Vergne the kickstart they require to perform in 2013. They started testing strongly, but both drivers finished behind Caterham and Marussia in Barcelona. To have their future questioned before the season has even begun will concern the Toro Rosso pairing, so they must answer their critics on the track this year.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Gabby Chaves

Gabby Chaves
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver field in the Verizon IndyCar Series. In 15th and the rookie-of-the-year for 2015, was Gabby Chaves.

Gabby Chaves, No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport Honda

  • 2014: Indy Lights champion
  • 2015: 15th Place, Best Finish 9th, Best Start 12th, 0 Top-5, 2 Top-10, 31 Laps Led, 19.3 Avg. Start, 14.4 Avg. Finish

Some drivers finish better than their performances show. Some drivers have performances better than their results show. The latter statement applied to Gabby Chaves in his rookie year, in what was an impressive first season after making the step up from Indy Lights, which deservedly earned him rookie-of-the-year honors.

The best comparison I’d make for Gabby is of Josef Newgarden in 2012 with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, a first-year driver on a single-car, newish team to the series.

Chaves rarely dazzled in qualifying but that wasn’t his fault; he and engineer John Dick worked well together and Chaves recounted multiple times this year that a tweak here or tweak there, the wrong way, on the aero kit would send them down the wrong setup path.

Results in races didn’t measure up either but again that was through almost no fault of his own. The only time Chaves looked truly like a rookie was at St. Pete, when he had several collisions. Otherwise he was ahead of eventual winner James Hinchcliffe at NOLA before getting punted off, reliable through the month of May in Indianapolis, finally able to break through for a ninth place in Detroit race two, overachieving in Texas, 11th at Milwaukee after some great wheel-to-wheel racing with series winners and champions, and then phenomenal at Pocono as he was on course for a first career win or podium before late-race engine issues – his first DNF of the season.

For both Chaves and Herta, you’d love to see them together for another season, and the results and confidence for both parties will grow as a result. Those who’ve seen Newgarden’s rise over four years with Fisher and now CFH will note the long-term stability, and that’s what Chaves could do if he gets the time.

He planted the seed of being a great IndyCar driver, and he became pretty versatile during the year too with additional appearances in the DeltaWing prototype, a short-track midget and one of Herta’s Red Bull Global Rallycross cars. To boot, he’s a smart, great kid who is mature beyond his years, and someone you should be buying stock in now. Anyone who saw Chaves in the Mazda Road to Indy should not have been surprised by his rookie season in the big cars.

Off The Grid: Monza preview (premieres Saturday 10/10 on NBCSN)

F1 Grand Prix of Italy
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Having already taken you behind the scenes in Barcelona, Budapest, Singapore, Melbourne and Silverstone, Will Buxton and Jason Swales now head to one of Formula 1’s most iconic venues for the latest episode of Off The Grid.

Monza has appeared in all but one F1 season since the formation of the world championship in 1950, and is a firm favorite among drivers, teams and fans alike.

However, there is far more to the Italian Grand Prix than meets the eye, as we find out in Saturday’s premiere of Off The Grid: Monza at 9:30am ET (follows Russian GP qualifying).

Having honed his talents in go-karts as a kid, Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo is now trying to pass on his knowledge to the next generation of racers. But can he teach Will or Jason a thing or two?

We also catch up with Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and get a feel for life on the road as he takes us for a tour of his lavish bus in which he travels in for the European F1 races.

Have you ever wondered just how the suits F1 drivers wear are made? We go behind the scenes at Alpine Stars’ factory in Italy and find out.

Off The Grid: Monza premieres on Saturday at 9:30am ET on NBCSN following Russian GP qualifying.