Tony Kanaan, Jimmy Vasser

Symbolism as Kanaan to set IndyCar’s record start streak in Baltimore

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He’s run Ironman triathlons before, but this week Tony Kanaan’s status as IndyCar’s “ironman” is cemented. He’ll set a series record for number of consecutive starts, with his 212th in a row eclipsing the mark set by his team principal and former rival Jimmy Vasser in this weekend’s Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT.

It’s a streak that has spanned more than 12 years, since the 2001 CART season. The last race Kanaan failed to start was at Detroit in 2001, when he suffered a concussion after a practice crash. He’ll break Vasser’s record driving “JV’s” No. 11 Hydroxycut KV Racing Technology-SH Chevrolet.

“It obviously proves that I’ve been around for a long time, that’s for sure. But obviously it’s a remarkable achievement,” Kanaan noted during a media teleconference on Wednesday. “I didn’t want to be beating one of my best friends in life and nowadays my boss, Jimmy.  But I guess I get to brag about that.  I guess I can’t brag as much until I get to Sunday’s race because Jimmy has the power not to let me start this race if he wants to!”

There’s been a couple times Kanaan has raced hurt, and after his serious accident in the 2009 Indianapolis 500 when he smacked a non-SAFER protected wall, he came close to missing Milwaukee the following week.

“The closest I think lately was that big crash I had at Indy, was that ’09, I lost the suspension,” Kanaan said. “The next weekend was Milwaukee. I was hurting. I had two broken ribs. I actually could barely walk to the car. That was the closest I got not to race.I had a concussion in Detroit, which I stayed out.  That’s when the streak started out after in Portland.  That concussion, back in the day, the technology and all the resources we have was not as accurate.  I still think I wasn’t right the week after that I went to Portland. I started the race, but I crashed three corners later and took (Alex) Zanardi out with me, my teammate.”

Vasser reflected on his driver’s achievement and noted the symbolism of Kanaan setting the record in Baltimore.

“It just goes to show how tough he is,” Vasser said. “He’s been driving through injuries, not only this year, but many times through the course of this streak. There’s nobody else better. It’s kind of ironic that he’s in the team and driving for us. I think it’s a pretty cool thing. And we’re doing it in Baltimore where the real Ironman Cal Ripken really built the house.”

Steiner: Haas F1 Team could not afford rookie mistakes

KANNAPOLIS, NC - SEPTEMBER 29:  (L-R) Gunther Steiner, team principal of Haas F1 Team, Romain Grosjean of France, and Gene Haas, owner of Haas F1 Team, pose for a photo opportunity after Haas F1 Team announced Grosjean as their driver for the upcoming 2016 Formula 1 season on September 29, 2015 in Kannapolis, North Carolina.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Stewart-Haas Racing via Getty Images)
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Günther Steiner has said that Haas Formula 1 Team could not afford to have its drivers making rookie mistakes during its debut season in the sport, reasoning the decision to only sign experienced racers for 2016.

On Tuesday, Haas unveiled Lotus driver Romain Grosjean as its first signing for next season, luring the Frenchman away from Enstone after ten years of association.

The second seat is set to go to either Esteban Gutierrez or Jean-Eric Vergne, who both work as development drivers for Ferrari and both have at least two seasons of racing under their belt.

As team principal, Steiner (pictured left) will work under team owner Gene Haas, and said that both had agreed that a rookie driver for season one would be unwise.

“We looked around a lot to find the right guy because we wanted somebody with experience but still hungry to do something, to go with us this long way,” Steiner explained.

“I started talks with the management of Romain in Barcelona to see if he’s interested and, you know, we spoke to quite a few drivers, and in the end I spoke also with technical people, what they think about Romain, how he develops a car.

“We have got a steep mountain to climb here, new team, all new team members, so we needed somebody who knows what he’s doing. I think in the end we found the right guy because he has so much ‘want to drive’ now, and he’s still aggressive or still wants it.

“He’s not [so] young anymore that he’s inexperienced. We lose time by having accidents or doing rookie mistakes. I think we just picked the best one out there for what we are doing, and we focused on him and got him, and we are very happy and we are looking forward to working with him.”

Mansell: Button, Alonso must keep faith in McLaren

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 03:  Former F1 World Champion Nigel Mansell of Great Britain talks to the media during previews ahead of the British Formula One Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit on July 3, 2014 in Northampton, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
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Former Formula 1 and CART champion Nigel Mansell has urged Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso to keep faith in McLaren-Honda while the team goes through the “growing pains” of a new partnership.

Button and Alonso have both won world titles in the past, but neither have been able to even dream of a similar success in 2015 as the new Honda power unit has limited the team to just 17 points in total from the first 14 races.

Both drivers are set to remain with the team for 2016, but speculation about their future has been rife as a result of Honda’s struggles which even prompted Alonso to publicly vent his frustration over the radio in last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.

Speaking to BBC Sport, Mansell urged both drivers to keep faith in the McLaren-Honda project, believing that it could yet make big strides forward ahead of the 2016 season.

“Jenson deserves an opportunity to see if they can compete and win next year,” Mansell said. “I think this winter Honda can make a breakthrough and McLaren will be working so, so hard.

“They are a fantastic team. They’ve won so much in the past and, to use [McLaren Group CEO] Ron Dennis’s words, they will win again in the future. I have no doubt about that.”

Mansell himself walked away from McLaren after just two races in 1995, its first season with Mercedes engines. After winning the CART title in 1993, Mansell enjoyed four races with Williams in F1 the following year before joining McLaren for the 1995 season.

After missing the first two races of the year due to the car being too narrow, Mansell took part in the San Marino and Spanish Grands Prix before walking away from McLaren due to the car’s lack of pace.

The Briton hinted at his own regrets when discussing the matter, and wished McLaren the very best in its bid to get back to the front of the field.

“Between Alonso and Jenson they will be a formidable team, given the car and the engine to do the job,” Mansell said. “When you go through the growing pains, and I’ve been there a few times myself, stay the course because they could have the best team and best engine.

“They’ll have some really serious regrets if Honda get it right after they’ve gone somewhere else. Hopefully within 12 months they’ll be singing the praises of the team and Honda. I sincerely hope they’ll be winning races in a year’s time.”