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.”

Here’s what drivers said after Sunday’s INDYCAR race was postponed until Monday

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Here’s what several drenched drivers had to say after Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama was postponed until Monday morning (11:30 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN):

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, 2017 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama winner, 2018 pole winner): “It’s tough because we have so many people that come out here to watch us. We want to put on a good race. We want to put on a show. So calling the race, running around behind the pace car not running, it’s tough, it’s tough to do that. But I think it was the right thing in the end. When we started the race, the conditions were OK. You could run at that level of rain. Then, it intensified right before that first caution. I think when the caution came out, it got to a point where it was just too much. There was too much puddling and pooling of water on every straightaway. Then the rivers started flowing, high-speed compressions in Turns 1 and 2, fast corner, 12 and 13, fast corner where the river starts to form. Just tough. I mean, look, we love racing in the rain. It’s got nothing to do with not wanting to run in the rain, not being able to do that. It’s that this type of track with this water level was too much to race today. We’ve run here in the rain before, but it intensified to the point where you’re starting to get in a situation where it’s going to take it out of the drivers’ hands. What happened with Will (Power), I don’t think is a driver error. I don’t know how anyone is going to drive hydroplaning on the front straightaway. I think you would have had that for the rest of the track, too. A tough situation. Thanks for the fans that came out and supported us. Hopefully we’ll get some people back tomorrow and we’ll get the show in and put on a great event.”

MATHEUS “MATT” LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet):
“Tough day so far. We had some problems with our radio and fuel alarm, but otherwise the car was alright. It was just too dangerous out there, we couldn’t see anything, so I think they made the right call. Hopefully we’ll have a good race tomorrow.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “It’s just a real shame for everyone on the Verizon Chevy team. The car was good and we were doing our best out there, but it was really hard to see anything in front of me. The conditions were just so bad. As soon as I got to the frontstraight, the car just came around, and I tried to keep it off the wall, but it was hydroplaning and there was nothing I could do. I feel bad for the team and for the fans in this weather. Just too bad. Hopefully our luck can turn around when we get to Indianapolis.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Very difficult day for us. In the race we were 13th at the time and we had some electrical issues, so that caused us to pit and we lost a lap. Not the ideal situation, but we don’t give up. There’s still a race tomorrow and we’re going to go for the most points. Anything can happen.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Mi-Jack Honda): “It was a tough beginning, but when we kind of got going it was OK and kind of fun to challenge for a while, but visibility was a major issue today, no doubt. I’m glad that the series postponed it. I would have like to get it in today, but that’s life. We will go racing tomorrow.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 Kerauno / MilitaryToMotorsports.com Honda, Verizon IndyCar Series points leader): “I think definitely the right decision was made to red flag the race. It’s a very difficult position for everyone to be in. It’s never the result that you want, but safety is obviously a priority. I think everyone did a good job considering the conditions of looking out for each other. Not being able to see is not doing anybody any good. It is hard for everyone, but glad that we’re all in one piece and try again later.

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda): “As you could see on TV, if you couldn’t see the car, it was probably three times worse in the cockpit on the main straight or any straight. You had to completely trust the guys that they were accelerating. Never the less, I made good progress on the short stint and I made up a few positions.  The car was working well, but also was aquaplaning a lot, too, so I have to respect INDYCAR’s decision for everyone’s safety. Now we really need to concentrate on having a good car for tomorrow. I’m sorry for the fans that sat in rain all day, but thank them for their support.”

RENE BINDER (No. 32 Binderholz tiptop timber Chevrolet): “It was a short day. In the beginning the conditions were not that good, but afterwards the conditions started to improve. The race was stopped, then restarted, and I think the conditions were not too bad at that point. Unfortunately, it was red flagged again and then cancelled for the day. It would have been nice to get halfway, but we will come back and try again tomorrow.”