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Villeneuve: Verstappen’s promotion “the worst thing ever for F1”


Former F1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve has weighed in on the debate about Max Verstappen making his debut at the age of 17 next season, saying that it is “the worst thing ever” for the sport.

The outspoken figure spoke to Autosport about Verstappen’s promotion to a full-time race seat at Toro Rosso for 2015 after just one season in single seaters, and made his feelings quite clear.

“It is the worst thing ever for Formula 1 because it will have two effects: it will either destroy him or, even if he is successful right away, then F1 will be meaningless,” Villeneuve told the British publication.

“What will F1 be? It will be nothing. It doesn’t do any good for anyone. Getting a superlicense should be meaningful.

“There is something that is flawed there. Basically, it is like getting all the presents without deserving anything.

“But there is this thing of ‘the younger, the better’. What’s the next step? A team who will sign someone at 15 just to get the image out of it?”

Following the team’s announcement earlier this week, the paddock has been abuzz with talk about Verstappen and Toro Rosso. Most of the current drivers have said that they are happy to race against the Dutch youngster, but deemed it to be a risky move on the part of the team.

Red Bull’s chief technical officer Adrian Newey is not as concerned about Verstappen racing in F1, but fears that it may set a dangerous precedent as Villeneuve alluded to.

“I don’t think age per se is particularly important,” he said. “Over the years we’ve seen a huge spread in driver ages. Fernando is still one of the very top drivers but has been in it for many seasons.

“I think what is a much more concerning question personally is the effect on education that happens for these drivers to get there at that age. A lot of drivers in karting and in junior formulas frankly just aren’t going to school. They don’t go to school at all.

“It’s something which motor racing as an industry urgently needs to look at, because personally, I think we’re being irresponsible allowing that.”

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.