Hungary F1 GP Auto Racing

McLaren gamble backfires for Button and Magnussen

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Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen left yesterday’s Hungarian Grand Prix asking themselves where it all went wrong after a mixed weekend for McLaren.

The British team showed good pace during practice and managed to get both of its drivers into the top ten qualifying shoot-out, only for Magnussen to crash heavily during the short rain shower in Q3. The damage to his car forced the team into a rebuild, and meant that he had to start from the pit lane.

More rain on Sunday meant that all of the drivers started the race on intermediate tires, and as the track began to dry, the forecasts were constantly changing. During the first safety car period, most of the drivers moved onto slicks, but McLaren rolled the dice and fitted more intermediates to Button and Magnussen’s cars in anticipation of more rain.

At first, it seemed to be a masterstroke. Button moved into the lead of the race with ease, passing Daniel Ricciardo once the safety car came in. However, it did not last long, and he soon dropped back before finishing the race in tenth place.

“I’m glad it was an exciting race for the fans, but it was a tough afternoon for us,” Button said. “We didn’t make the right decisions today.

“The opening laps in the rain were great. I got up into fifth, which wasn’t a bad position for us, but it went downhill from there.

“I feel like I did everything right, and in every track condition, which is why it’s tough, but we win as a team and we lose as a team, and we’ll quickly put this behind us and move on.”

Magnussen eventually finished the race in 12th position and out of the points for the first time since the Spanish Grand Prix in May. However, after starting from the pits, he did not feel that the team had much to lose.

“We didn’t make the best of things today, but having started from the pit lane, I don’t think I really lost too much by choosing to stay on the inters when everybody pitted for dries,” he said.

“I know we took a risk to wait for more rain, but I think we had to take that risk. I don’t think things would’ve been much different if we’d made a different strategy call, but we now need to sit down with the engineers and strategists to discuss it.

“Once we switched to the prime, we didn’t have the pace to challenge for too many points. After a race like today’s, we just need to stay positive and look for areas where we can further improve.”

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.