F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain - Previews

After Shanghai letdown, McLaren’s Boullier tells team ‘don’t panic’


After a double-podium result in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, McLaren’s form has dramatically fallen. And in last weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix, the descent continued.

Former World Champion Jenson Button and rookie Kevin Magnussen were each unable to muster much of a fight, finishing 11th and 13th respectively in a rough afternoon at Shanghai.

Perhaps it gave McLaren diehards a flashback to the team’s awful season last year, in which it failed to register a podium finish for the first time in over three decades.

With that in mind, racing director Eric Boullier is doing all he can to keep the troops from Woking from falling into a state of alarm.

“One of the dangers is after last year is to go into panic mode, which would make things even worse,” he said according to Britain’s Press Association. “It is why we have to go back a little and say, ‘Don’t panic’.

“McLaren has won as many races as Ferrari. Two years ago, they were winning races, so there is no reason to panic. It is not because you lose one guy, two guys, six guys or 10 that the car does not work any more. It is more the panic mode.

“Sometimes you have to look at yourself and think, ‘Well, what the others are doing is maybe more clever’. Like any business, you have to watch your competitors and try and catch up with them.”

In the meantime, Boullier insists the team has managed to find “a lot of performance” in the wind tunnel, which it plans to show as the F1 calendar moves deeper into its European portion.

“Some of it will be in Barcelona, whilst other things will take a bit longer than this,” he said. “But we’re definitely in the mix – 100 per cent sure. On the track is one thing, but we know in the factory what is going to happen in the next three or four races.

“I know what is going on, so I know we are on a very good development rate.”

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.