Several drivers in the 2013 Formula One field explain the pressures, demands, strains and commitment it takes to make it in the sport. The sport’s oldest driver Mark Webber of Red Bull is among those interviewed, along with several drivers who are new to the grid this year – Valtteri Bottas of Williams, Esteban Gutierrez of Sauber and Max Chilton of Marussia.
BUENOS AIRES – Sebastien Buemi felt content with his performance in Saturday’s Buenos Aires ePrix after bouncing back from a mistake in qualifying to finish second and extend his lead at the top of the Formula E drivers’ championship.
Buemi locked up during his 200kW lap in qualifying at Puerto Madero to resign himself to 18th position on the grid, handing his rivals an opportunity to overhaul him in the title race.
The Renault e.dams driver produced a spirited display to pick through the order during the race before coming into contention for the win late on after a safety car period.
Although Buemi could not overhaul DS Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird at the front of the pack, he remained happy with second place in light of his qualifying error.
“The mistake in qualifying was very annoying, because when you have such a good car and such a good team, you want to reward them with the best possible result,” Buemi told MotorSportsTalk.
“But in the end I did my best to come back. I think I did a good job. 18 points are better than zero so happy with that.”
Buemi is now targeting an error-free weekend at the next race in Mexico City as he looks to extend the four-point gap to Lucas di Grassi at the top of the standings.
“Clearly [the result] shows that we have a very strong car and we just need to make sure from now on we don’t miss any points,” Buemi said.
“Putrajaya, the team made a mistake, the car didn’t finish the race. But today obviously I made one [in qualifying] and I tried to work the car to catch it back.
“We’ve seen today that it’s easy to leave the weekend with zero points. I have only four points advantage in the championship, so I’m going to try to expand it as much as possible.”
Alexander Rossi remains upbeat about his chances of racing in Formula 1 once again with Manor Racing in 2016, saying that things are “looking positive” for the new season.
Rossi became the first American driver in eight years to start an F1 race when he replaced Roberto Merhi for the Singapore Grand Prix back in September.
Rossi took part in five races and matched Manor’s best result of the season by finishing 12th in the United States Grand Prix.
Manor is the only team in F1 yet to confirm its line-up for the new season, with Rossi facing competition from Rio Haryanto, Will Stevens and Pascal Wehrlein for a seat.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Rossi was hopeful of his chances of getting on the grid in 2016 with Manor and said that they are still engaged in regular talks.
“Talks are every day,” Rossi said. “I think the deadline is really when cars roll in Barcelona in a couple of weeks.
“Things sometimes get pushed out in this sport and it is something I am used to and hopefully it doesn’t go on to much longer. Things are looking positive and hopefully we get it done very soon.”
BUENOS AIRES – Simona de Silvestro doubts that she will take part in the 100th Indianapolis 500 this May due to her existing commitments with Andretti in Formula E.
De Silvestro has made five Indy 500 starts, recording a best finish of 14th in her first appearance that earned her the Rookie of the Year award at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2010. She only got to race in four of them, however, as she and Jean Alesi were parked within the opening 10 laps due to an off-pace Lotus engine in 2012.
The Swiss driver joined Andretti in 2015 following her unsuccessful attempt to reach Formula 1 with Sauber, and has raced for its Formula E team since the London ePrix back in June.
Speaking to MotorSportsTalk in Buenos Aires, de Silvestro admitted that although she is still keen to race in IndyCar, her focus for the time being primarily lies with Formula E.
“I always tease Michael [Andretti] a little bit about it because he knows I’m really passionate about IndyCar and there’s still stuff that I wish I could race there and show what I can do still,” de Silvestro said.
“But it’s just difficult and really depending on sponsorship. Right now, Formula E is really the focus and the opportunity is really good here. I have to prove myself here and that’s what I’ve got to do first.
“Maybe who knows what happens next year or whatever or maybe one race, we never know. But that’s the good thing about a team like this. There’s different options and that’s cool.”
When asked about the possibility of racing at the Indy 500 in May, de Silvestro said that as much as she would like to be a part of the 100th running, qualifying’s clash with the Berlin ePrix makes her involvement unlikely.
“I’d love to you know because it’s the 100th running also,” de Silvestro said. “It’s really special because I’ve raced there four times now and it’d be really cool to do it, but it might be difficult this year especially with the Berlin race.
“I would have to miss quite a lot of practice and also qualifying. I wouldn’t be able to be there, so it makes it a little bit trickier.
“If Berlin wasn’t there, maybe it’d be more of a goal, but right now you never know. Berlin is the focus.”
Theoretically, another driver could qualify her car and she could race it. This happened at this past year’s Indianapolis 500 when Tristan Vautier qualified what would be James Davison’s car with Davison stuck at an existing commitment, but under unusual circumstances Vautier wound up racing Carlos Huertas’ car when Huertas was medically ruled out.
Meanwhile Ryan Briscoe also got a call-up under similarly unusual circumstances, filling in for the injured James Hinchcliffe after his accident in practice.
It wouldn’t be an ideal situation for de Silvestro, though, who’s traditionally shown better on road and street courses than on ovals throughout her IndyCar starts.
The man most responsible for John Force’s career success – other than Force himself – is coming back to John Force Racing.
Force exclusively confirmed to NBCSports.com that former crew chief Austin Coil is coming out of retirement and returning to the JFR fold for 2016.
“Coil said to me, ‘You’ve managed to screw this up, but I can help you’,” Force said with a laugh during a phone interview from NHRA preseason testing in Phoenix. “He’s helping me, to help the people with me, to look at the things we need to get this thing right.”
First joining forces in 1986, Force and Coil went on to become the winningest driver-crew chief combination in NHRA history, earning 15 Funny Car championships and 132 national event wins together.
Coil abruptly retired one day after leading Force to his 15th NHRA Funny Car championship in 2010.
Since the breakup, Force has won just one additional Funny Car championship (2013) and 11 national event victories. The veteran driver is coming off an especially tough 2015 season, one he calls “my worst season in 25 years,” finishing seventh in the standings and recording just two wins (Las Vegas 1 and Epping, New Hampshire).
And even though Force is now 66 and Coil is 70, they believe they can regain some of their old magic together. Force has also brought back former tech whiz Ron Armstrong into the JFR fold.
“We’re putting the old band back together,” Force said with a laugh.
As for what Coil’s role will be exactly, Force was quick to point out Coil will not return to his old crew chief role, nor will he be considered a “consultant” or “advisor.”
Rather, Coil simply wants to be “help out,” Force said.
“Coil, I want to be clear, is not going to come out here on the road, he doesn’t want to do that,” Force said. “But he’s helping us with stuff.”
Coil will not have an office at JFR and will work at his own pace, Force said. But given that Coil called the shots for 24 years before, Force is more than happy to let his old buddy “help out” in any way he sees fit.
“I’m really excited to have him on board,” Force said. “Just talking to Coil, for me, we’ve only had three or four lunches together, but just talking helps get my heart back right. He made me who I am and I’m never going to forget that.
“I asked Coil what did I do wrong? He said, ‘You’ve been on overload. You had good people and you lost some. What you have to do is get back on track.
“He told me to split the team in half, start building the dragster side (with 11-time Top Fuel champion Alan Johnson overseeing the team with Force’s daughter, Brittany, behind the wheel), and on the other side, build the Funny Car side, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Coil had resisted prior efforts to return to the JFR fold. But when Force came calling over the winter, Coil apparently had a change of heart.
“Over the winter, Robert (JFR president and Force’s son-in-law Robert Hight) and I got together (with Coil) and said, ‘Let’s talk about things,’” Force said. “We knew there were issues. He quit, he walked away, he said he just didn’t want to do this anymore. I thought he might be going to Schumacher (arch-rival Don Schumacher Racing), but that’s not where he went.
“He said, ‘I’ve done my thing, I’ve won’ and we really were best of friends. He said to my face, ‘I love you, Force, I always have. But I’m in a different mode in my life of what I want to do. I’m in retirement, I can’t run to the airports like I used to.’
“He’s the one that put me here 25 years ago. Thirty years ago, we started building it. People give me the credit for it, but no, it’s the people I put around me like Coil, Armstrong, Mike Neff (crew chief for Hight and director of operations for JFR) and with AJ (Alan Johnson) coming in here and Brian Husen (as Brittany Force’s crew chief).”
With Johnson now running the Top Fuel side of JFR, and with Coil’s return, Force is very optimistic about his four-car organization’s chances in 2016.
“I always listen to Austin Coil,” Force said. “He says let Alan Johnson run that dragster, he’ll put your kid in the winner’s circle, and let Mike Neff run that Funny Car. He’s won championships for you and he’s going to build those Funny Car teams to where they need to be.
“So, I’m excited about it. We’re going to be okay. We’re going racing now.”