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Mallya up for a fight in the constructors’ championship

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Force India owner Vijay Mallya is confident that the team can catch Williams and battle with Ferrari in the constructors’ championship this season.

The team has made its strongest ever start to a Formula 1 season since debuting in 2008, scoring 98 points in the first half of the year to sit just eleven points shy of its biggest haul of 109 for a season with eight races to go.

Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez have both been in good form, making big gains on 2013, and Mallya is confident that this success can sustain until the end of the season.

“Yes, we’ve been in fourth position up to the eighth race, and we’re now sitting in P5, which is fine,” he explained to the official Formula 1 website. “We did not expect that we would reach fourth and maintain it right through the season.

“The difference in points between Ferrari, Williams, us and McLaren is still not so dramatic that we don’t believe that with a better race we can move forward. So as long as we are close enough I am not worried at all. That is the nature of Formula 1 racing.

“And we must never forget that at the last race it’s going to be double points, which can change everything again.”

Mallya refused to make any predictions for where the team will finish, but instead issued a rally cry to keep pushing.

“There is a huge amount of unpredictability on who will finish where in the constructors’ championship and the drivers’ championship this year, so it’s a question of focusing, keeping it going and making sure that none of the other teams are taking too much of a lead in front of us,” he said.

“Because we can always catch up – it’s still a long way to go.”

Given that Force India’s roots came from the back of the grid as an incarnation of Jordan Grand Prix, Mallya’s achievements are highly commendable. He has brought the team up the grid and made it a serious contender for podium finishes and even race wins, and 2014 looks set to be a year to remember if this form continues into the second half of the season.

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.