F1 Grand Prix of Hungary - Practice

Lotus confident of avoiding 2014 mistakes next season

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Lotus F1 Team technical director Nick Chester is confident that the team can learn from its mistakes in 2014 to bounce back next season and recover from this year’s slump.

After fighting at the front of the field for the past two championships, the British team has struggled this season to make much of an impact in F1. Romain Grosjean has scored all eight of its points, while teammate Pastor Maldonado is yet to finish any higher than 12th since his move from Williams.

Chester admitted in an interview with the official F1 website that missing the first pre-season test in Spain did harm the team, and although he believes that the gap has been caught up, there are still lessons to be learned for 2015.

“I think [attending the test] would have helped with some of the reliability problems,” he said. “There were some things we found in the second and third tests that we might have found had we been present in the first. So we lost some time there, and that made things tricky.

“That has been caught up by now, but obviously you’ve lost some development time because you’ve been fighting other problems.”

The seismic change in the technical regulations came at a bad time for Lotus, as the team hit financial difficulties towards the end of last season. However, Chester is confident that 2015 will be a very different story, with Maldonado’s backing going a long way to keeping the team above water.

“We had an awful lot of unknowns coming into 2014,” he said. “There were some things we were really worried about that turned out not to be problems, and then some things we hadn’t expected at all.

“So there was an awful lot of learning, and the early testing was really hard work, the hardest we have had with a new car since I have been at Enstone.

“There were whole systems on the car that we just had very little of experience of. But we learnt an awful lot from it.”

The team will be hoping to make a good start to the final stretch of the season in Belgium next weekend, with the target now being seventh in the constructors’ championship ahead of Toro Rosso.

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.