F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia - Qualifying

Horner delighted with podium after difficult winter

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Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner was in a jubilant mood following today’s Malaysian Grand Prix after Sebastian Vettel finished the race in third place, bringing an end to the team’s ‘winter of discontent.’

Having put more resources into the successful 2013 campaign, Red Bull found themselves on the back foot during winter testing in Spain and Bahrain. The team’s problems were only compounded by engine supplier Renault’s issues, meaning that heading to the first race in Australia, the defending world champions had not completed an entire race distance.

Following Vettel’s early retirement in Australia and Daniel Ricciardo’s disqualification, the team failed to score any points in the first race of the season. Although Ricciardo failed to finish in Malaysia after a luckless race, Vettel’s third place brought some much needed joy to Horner and the Red Bull team.

“Considering where we were a month ago, to be on the podium with Sebastian in Malaysia in a dry race, is an incredible performance,” he explained. “We knew that we had some ground to catch up to the Mercedes, so to finish as close as Sebastian did today was a really positive performance and, while we know we’ve got a lot of work to do, we can begin to realize the scale of our challenge.”

The team failed to challenge Mercedes during the race as Lewis Hamilton led home Nico Rosberg for a dominant one-two, so there is definitely ground to be made up.

As for Ricciardo, Horner expressed his sympathy for the Australian driver who once again came away with no points.

“It’s a great shame for Daniel who did everything right today: a great start and a great first lap and a really impressive opening part of the race,” Horner said. “It was unlucky that when he came in to a pit stop, the front left didn’t go on properly and the car was released, it was judged to be an unsafe release and we had a drive through penalty.

“Thereafter the wing failed – we don’t know what caused that yet. I think Daniel’s clearly shown his potential and that the Australian GP wasn’t a one off. It’s great to have two guys pushing like they are.”

The team is set to appeal against Ricciardo’s disqualification from the Australian Grand Prix at a hearing in Paris on April 14.

Although the advantage does clearly lie with Mercedes, Red Bull appears to have finally found its feet in 2014, and can now begin to plot its challenge for a fifth straight set of championships.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Gabby Chaves

Gabby Chaves
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver field in the Verizon IndyCar Series. In 15th and the rookie-of-the-year for 2015, was Gabby Chaves.

Gabby Chaves, No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport Honda

  • 2014: Indy Lights champion
  • 2015: 15th Place, Best Finish 9th, Best Start 12th, 0 Top-5, 2 Top-10, 31 Laps Led, 19.3 Avg. Start, 14.4 Avg. Finish

Some drivers finish better than their performances show. Some drivers have performances better than their results show. The latter statement applied to Gabby Chaves in his rookie year, in what was an impressive first season after making the step up from Indy Lights, which deservedly earned him rookie-of-the-year honors.

The best comparison I’d make for Gabby is of Josef Newgarden in 2012 with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, a first-year driver on a single-car, newish team to the series.

Chaves rarely dazzled in qualifying but that wasn’t his fault; he and engineer John Dick worked well together and Chaves recounted multiple times this year that a tweak here or tweak there, the wrong way, on the aero kit would send them down the wrong setup path.

Results in races didn’t measure up either but again that was through almost no fault of his own. The only time Chaves looked truly like a rookie was at St. Pete, when he had several collisions. Otherwise he was ahead of eventual winner James Hinchcliffe at NOLA before getting punted off, reliable through the month of May in Indianapolis, finally able to break through for a ninth place in Detroit race two, overachieving in Texas, 11th at Milwaukee after some great wheel-to-wheel racing with series winners and champions, and then phenomenal at Pocono as he was on course for a first career win or podium before late-race engine issues – his first DNF of the season.

For both Chaves and Herta, you’d love to see them together for another season, and the results and confidence for both parties will grow as a result. Those who’ve seen Newgarden’s rise over four years with Fisher and now CFH will note the long-term stability, and that’s what Chaves could do if he gets the time.

He planted the seed of being a great IndyCar driver, and he became pretty versatile during the year too with additional appearances in the DeltaWing prototype, a short-track midget and one of Herta’s Red Bull Global Rallycross cars. To boot, he’s a smart, great kid who is mature beyond his years, and someone you should be buying stock in now. Anyone who saw Chaves in the Mazda Road to Indy should not have been surprised by his rookie season in the big cars.

Off The Grid: Monza preview (premieres Saturday 10/10 on NBCSN)

F1 Grand Prix of Italy
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Having already taken you behind the scenes in Barcelona, Budapest, Singapore, Melbourne and Silverstone, Will Buxton and Jason Swales now head to one of Formula 1’s most iconic venues for the latest episode of Off The Grid.

Monza has appeared in all but one F1 season since the formation of the world championship in 1950, and is a firm favorite among drivers, teams and fans alike.

However, there is far more to the Italian Grand Prix than meets the eye, as we find out in Saturday’s premiere of Off The Grid: Monza at 9:30am ET (follows Russian GP qualifying).

Having honed his talents in go-karts as a kid, Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo is now trying to pass on his knowledge to the next generation of racers. But can he teach Will or Jason a thing or two?

We also catch up with Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and get a feel for life on the road as he takes us for a tour of his lavish bus in which he travels in for the European F1 races.

Have you ever wondered just how the suits F1 drivers wear are made? We go behind the scenes at Alpine Stars’ factory in Italy and find out.

Off The Grid: Monza premieres on Saturday at 9:30am ET on NBCSN following Russian GP qualifying.