Jenson Button

2013 Australian Grand Prix Preview


Since 1996, Formula One has made its annual visit to Melbourne towards the beginning of the season, and the Australian Grand Prix has acted as the curtain-raiser for fifteen of the last seventeen F1 seasons. The warm and humid climate acts as a complete opposite to winter testing, with the race the first real chance for drivers and teams to get to grips with their 2013 machinery under race conditions. Although many believe it’s not how you start a season but how you finish, just twice since the turn of the century has the eventual world champion not finished on the podium at the opening round.

Albert Park is a challenge for the drivers, as the street circuit gives their cars a true shakedown for the season to come. Jenson Button holds the best record at the Australian Grand Prix of the current drivers, with three wins in the past four years. Besides Button, Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton have also all claimed wins at the race – all five drivers are world champions.

A large number of retirements is not uncommon in Australia. Drivers can sometimes be caught out by the tight and twisty nature of the circuit, which means that a safety car is likely (four in 2006), and this will be taken into account by the teams when formulating their strategies. Due to the tight turn one, a good grid position is crucial in Melbourne to avoid getting caught up in any accidents off the start.

Predicting a winner at the start of any season is largely guess-work, but Jenson Button’s success in Australia makes him an early favorite. Tire wear is particularly high at the track, and with the new tires even more aggressive for 2013, conservative drivers such as Button, Sergio Perez and Romain Grosjean will be in with a good chance of scoring highly. This race may also present the best chance of the season for Marussia and Caterham to score some points due to the high rate of attrition, but the front runners must also pay heed to the first rule in Formula One: to finish first, first you have to finish.

Track: Albert Park, Melbourne (5.3km)
Laps: 58
Corners: 16
Lap Record: Michael Schumacher 1:24.125 (2004)
Tire Compounds: Super-Soft (Option); Medium (Prime)
2012 Winner: Jenson Button (McLaren)
2012 Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton (McLaren)
2012 Fastest Lap: Jenson Button – 1:29.187
DRS Zones: Main straight (T16 to T1); T2 to T3

Friday – Free Practice 1: 12:30pm local/21:30pm ET
Friday – Free Practice 2: 16:30pm local/1:30am ET
Saturday – Free Practice 3: 14:00pm local/11:00pm ET
Saturday – Qualifying: 17:00pm local/2:00am ET
Sunday – Race: 17:00pm local time, 2am ET

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Gabby Chaves

Gabby Chaves
Leave a comment

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
© Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.