Sauber’s pair seek further experience in China

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Behind the leading four teams, Nico Hulkenberg led Formula 1’s midfield runners in Malaysia with an eighth place finish. The Sauber driver isn’t quite as bullish heading into China this week.

“The circuit in Shanghai is not particularly one of my favorite tracks, nevertheless it’s a demanding one, especially the first few corners and the corners before the back straight,” he said. “Tires and strategy will be very important during the weekend.”

Hulkenberg had his first start for Sauber last race after a fuel pump failure sidelined him in Australia. He drove in Malaysia with damage but still fought through.

“At the beginning of the race in Malaysia my rear wing endplate was damaged, which caused a loss of downforce,” he said. “I have a better feeling now I have driven my first race in the C32, especially because we were able to collect a lot of information. In Malaysia we scored points and that is also my goal for China.”

Rookie teammate Esteban Gutierrez, who has been solid if unspectacular in his first two races, has yet to turn a lap of the Shanghai International Circuit.

“I don’t actually know the track yet, so it will be an interesting challenge again to learn the circuit and then to develop confidence throughout the practice sessions,” said the Mexican driver. “I have heard it is a very complex track with some fast corners and, at the same time, is very technical.

“Learning a new track all depends on the approach you take,” he added. “You can learn a lot through video footage, your engineer’s advice on the right gears in different parts of the track and, most important of all, the more confidence you have in your car the easier it is to learn a new one. Compared to the first race in Melbourne, I now know the car so I can focus on learning the track. My goal is to improve and I’m looking forward to that.”

Al Unser Jr. back in IndyCar after a decade away: ‘Life is very good’

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There’s been somewhat of a hole in Al Unser Jr.’s heart ever since he retired from racing in 2007.

It was a void, something was missing.

But now, after a decade away from racing, Unser has found the right medicine to fill that hole in his heart: he’s back in the racing game again.

No, he’s not driving again (although he does participate occasionally in vintage races), but the two-time Indianapolis 500 (1992 and 1994) winner is definitely back in the IndyCar world.

And he couldn’t be happier.

“For me, it’s a dream come true,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “Since I stepped out of the race car and retired from racing, there’s been something missing from my life, and it’s racing.”

Unser has hooked up with Harding Racing. The team competed in three races last season as a ramp-up for a full 17-race effort this season. While Unser’s official title with the team is “consultant,” he’s involved in so much more.

His main role is as a driving coach to 2015 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves. But he’s also involved in so many other areas, including helping the team obtain sponsorships and much more.

He then added, “I’m involved in every sense of the word except actually driving the car. And I’m happy about that because I’m too old to drive the car.”

Unser, who won CART championships in 1990 and 1994, is now 55. He’s so involved with his new job that he even moved from his native New Mexico and has relocated to suburban Indianapolis.

Not only is it a new start for Unser, it also is for Chaves. After running all 16 races in 2015 for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, he competed in just seven races for Dale Coyne Racing in 2016 and only three races for Harding Racing last season.

But he definitely impressed the team, with a fifth- (Texas) and ninth-place (Indianapolis 500) finish in the first two races and 15th (Pocono) in the team’s final run of the season.

That’s why when Harding Racing decided to go fulltime in 2018, Chaves was their pick for behind the wheel. And Unser was their pick to help guide him to potential stardom in the series.

“(Team owner) Mike Harding is definitely a person that when he decides to do something, he does it right,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “The potential for this organization is through the sky. We’re all working really hard here and we see the potential.”

And as for Unser?

“Life is good, life is very good,” he told IndyCar.com. “We’re back full force, eager and better than ever.”

Click here for the full story about Unser from IndyCar.com.