Tough Friday for Button and McLaren in Malaysia

Leave a comment

Jenson Button has reflected on a tough Friday for McLaren in Malaysia following practice for this weekend’s race at the Sepang International Circuit.

The British driver finished fourth in FP1 and eighth in FP2 on Friday, but he is far from encouraged by the long-run pace of his McLaren in the hot and humid conditions.

“We’re finding it tough out there today, especially in the heat,” Button conceded. “We’re not as strong as we’d like to be in high-speed corners, and when you have downforce issues, they’re further amplified by the hot weather. So our long runs were tricky in terms of both tyre degradation and outright pace.”

McLaren is sporting a new nose on both of its cars this weekend, with a design more akin to the appendage that Toro Rosso has been sporting in 2014. Although Button is pleased by the effect this upgrade has had on the MP4-29, he is still unconvinced by the race pace of the car.

“We’re now going through the data, but the upgrades we brought here seem to be giving us something, so that’s encouraging, but there’s a lot of work still to be done,” he said.

“I’m sure people are getting excited about individual lap-times, but they don’t count for too much around here because you can usually overtake. It’s the long runs that you need to analyse, and that’s where we’re finding it a bit more difficult.”

Having scored his 50th podium finish of his Formula 1 career in Australia following Daniel Ricciardo’s disqualification, Button will be hoping to continue this good for in Malaysia. However, the heat may not be as much of a problem on race day if rain does hit the track, and this is a serious possibility given that the grand prix is held during monsoon season.

Teammate Kevin Magnussen matched Button’s pace throughout practice, but the Dane’s car did break down momentarily during the first session on Friday afternoon.

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

Getty Images
1 Comment

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.