F1 Grand Prix of Singapore - Previews

Button: Japan “almost a home race”

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We mentioned earlier this morning that this year’s Japanese Grand Prix will be run without a native driver – or engine manufacturer – for the first time in the race’s history since it came back on the Formula One calendar in 1987.

Perhaps the locals will shift their support and attention to Jenson Button? The McLaren driver has a love and affinity for Suzuka more than any circuit on the calendar, except his actual home Grand Prix in Silverstone. He explained as much leading up to this weekend’s on-track festivities.

“Japan is almost my second home Grand Prix, besides Silverstone, as this country here is in my heart,” said Button, who won in 2011 even though it was overshadowed by Sebastian Vettel’s clinching of his second straight World Championship.

“2011 was such a tough race, leading towards the end, running low on fuel with Fernando chasing me and Sebastian. It was amazing to win especially that year when Japan had had such a rough year as a country itself. So this was a very special victory, and my girlfriend was crying her eyes out,” he said. Button’s girlfriend, Jessica Michibata, is Japanese.

He rated two McLaren victories at Suzuka as his most memorable moments there, not either of the 1989 or 1990 comings-together between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.

“Probably Mika Hakkinen’s win (in 1998), and for sure also Kimi’s (Raikkonen) win (in 2005),” said Button. “I was racing then. I remember having a qualifying in mixed conditions, and I qualified in the dry and managed to be on the front row, but Kimi caught the wet. He had to work his way through the field during the race, and he won it in the last or second-to-last lap only. That was a mega drive.”

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Carlos Munoz

Carlos Munoz
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver roster in this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series. Next up in 13th is Carlos Munoz, who fell back to earth a bit after winning Indianapolis 500, then series rookie-of-the-year honors in consecutive years.

Carlos Munoz, No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda

  • 2014: 8th Place, Best Finish 3rd, Best Start 3rd, 3 Podiums, 5 Top-5, 8 Top-10, 0 Laps Led, 10.5 Avg. Start, 12.6 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 13th Place, 1 Win, Best Start 4th, 1 Podium, 3 Top-5, 7 Top-10, 25 Laps Led, 14.0 Avg. Start, 12.1 Avg. Finish

Munoz fell down to earth a little bit in his second full season in IndyCar, albeit not as badly as fellow 2014 rookie Jack Hawksworth, who’d switched teams and had a myriad of issues throughout the season. He won his first race in the rain at Detroit race one, which was well judged, but there were precious other highlights from the driver who has showcased “wow” potential in the past.

His qualifying fell off year-to-year and that was probably the single thing to pinpoint as to why the decline occurred, falling from eighth to 13th in points. What had been a 10.5 average in 2014 fell to 14th this year, and behind teammates Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Ovals seemed his strongest type of circuit this year on the whole. Like teammate Justin Wilson, he’d been in position to score what would have been his third straight Indianapolis 500 top-five finish if a late splash of fuel wasn’t needed. Sixth at Texas from fourth on the grid marked his best overall weekend of the year, and fifth at Iowa and Pocono were also fairly good results.

But whereas Munoz picked his spots well last year and delivered a handful of podiums, his Detroit win marked his only podium visit this year. He didn’t really make much of an impression and was more anonymous than not over the course of the year. His future with Andretti is uncertain for 2016.

Williams maximizes wet setup work despite limited running in Sochi

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With action pretty much limited in both practice sessions due to the diesel spillage in free practice one and rain in free practice two for the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi, teams could only do limited wet-weather runs.

Williams Martini Racing tried to make the best of the circumstances, as one of only five teams that completed laps in FP2 (McLaren, Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Ferrari) with eight cars.

Felipe Massa led second practice but it was an essentially meaningless session.

“It was quite a stunted session today which stopped us from completing all of the work we wanted to,” said Rob Smedley, Williams’ head of vehicle performance. “We had planned to run in the wet but we had a strange situation this afternoon in that half of the circuit was much wetter than the other half which made most of the tests null and void.

“We have been working on the wet set-up of the car and so wanted to get out at the end of FP2 to see the progress we have made. In a similar vein to our low speed corner work in Singapore, we seem to be making progress. We got through all of the bits and pieces we wanted to get through in terms of control systems and power unit set-up, and we have to go into tomorrow with a good plan for FP3 to get the car set-up for qualifying and the race.”

Valtteri Bottas finished third in Sochi a year ago, while Massa seeks a rebound after a fuel flow issue in qualifying resigned him to a Q1 elimination and an 11th place finish.