F1 Grand Prix of Germany - Practice

Wolff finally completes practice run despite early scare


Susie Wolff finally completed a full practice session for Williams at Hockenheim today, but it wasn’t without an early scare that threatened to sideline her for the second race in a row.

During practice for the British Grand Prix, Wolff became the first woman in 22 years to take part in an official grand prix weekend session, but her bow lasted just 20 minutes after an engine failure on her car.

She had one final shot during practice today at Hockenheim, and lightning looked set to strike twice when her FW36 car began to slow as she exited the pits. The car was stuck in first gear, forcing her to crawl back at a pedestrian pace.

“That was a tough moment because it was immediately clear when I left the pit lane that there was a problem with the drive, and then I lost it completely at the hairpin,” she explained to reporters. “I stayed quite calm because at the end of the day, you’ve just got to get through it. These things are out of your control.

“In that moment, out on track, I said ‘no no no no no, it’s not going to finish like this’. I had such a good feeling for today. I think when you have that optimism and that belief that this is not the end, you just somehow know it’s going to work, and maybe I would be saying a different story now if I had stopped out on track but the truth is we got back to the pits and that was the most important thing.”

Wolff did manage to get her ailing car back to the pits, and Williams soon fixed the problem, allowing her to go out and complete a full run. She finished 15th on the timesheets, just two-tenths of a second shy of full-time Williams driver Felipe Massa. Wolff was delighted with the performance and the work undertaken.

“Yes, I’m happy with my performance today,” she said. “My main target result was always going to be Felipe, and the team set out a programme. It was important to do a good job today because obviously with the change in the setup, taking the FRIC out, it was important to then get as much information for the team as possible.

“So I knew exactly what I had to do and I knew it was my only chance then to show what I was capable of out there, but I had a really good feeling because I was well prepared for it. I know the track very well from my DTM times, and I was just looking forward to driving the car because it’s so much fun to be out there driving.”

As for a next run? Wolff is unsure, and could not comment on when Williams would next give her a chance to test the car when asked about it by NBC Sports.

“That’s the million dollar question, the next one…” she pondered. “That’s the difficulty because as soon as you come into the pit lane and finish the session, the next question is ‘okay, when do you get back in the car?'”

“That’s one of the toughest things in Formula 1: getting more opportunities. The team are happy with my performance, so that was an important step in the right direction, and now I have to see what else is possible.

“It’ll be difficult this season to get any more time in the car, that’s clear, but that’s next on my to do list.”

Wolff certainly held her own today during practice, and it will be interesting to see just how her fledgling F1 career develops from here. Nevertheless, she should be proud of her achievements over the past three weeks and of her result during practice in Germany today.

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.