Jenson Button

McLaren looks for recovery after double DNF in Bahrain

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McLaren’s season has featured elements in pairs – the highs of a double podium in Melbourne and the lows of a double DNF two weeks ago in Bahrain.

Something in the middle of that, and a return to points after the two mechanical issues took out Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen last race, would be a nice tonic heading into the fourth Grand Prix of the 2014 Formula One season.

“After a disappointing race in Bahrain, I think we head to China with a bit of a point to prove – we need to get some points on the board, and get another race under our belts that demonstrates the pace that we feel this year’s car has,” Button said in the team’s advance release.

He also stressed that in the Mercedes-power unit pecking order, McLaren needs to do a better job of asserting itself.

“Bahrain showed that, the top two cars aside, the racing this year is fast, fraught and very evenly matched,” he explained. “The margins are so slim that it’ll require us to get everything right: a focused practice, problem-free qualifying sessions and a clean race to try and establish ourselves at the forefront of that chasing pack.”

Button said the track doesn’t “perfectly” suit the MP4-29 package but they’ll attempt to work through it this weekend.

Magnussen, too, is motivated to improve after some self-assessment that he didn’t extract the maximum from the car in Bahrain. He’s not raced at Shanghai, either, which continues his learning process through the opening rounds of the season.

“I came away from the last race feeling like I didn’t get the maximum from either myself or the car, so the couple of days’ testing in Bahrain, and my preparations for this race, will hopefully allow me to rediscover my comfort zone with MP4-29,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to this race – it’s a track I’ve only seen on the TV, but it looks to have a real variety of corners. The first turn looks like a real challenge, but, most interestingly, I think we’ve going to see some spectacular speeds, and a lot of overtaking along the back straight, which is one of the longest in Formula One.”

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.