Button relishing return to “special” Monza

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McLaren driver Jenson Button is relishing Formula One’s annual visit to Monza next weekend as the European season comes to a close with the Italian Grand Prix.

Button expressed his excitement for the race in McLaren’s grand prix preview, with the Briton finishing on the podium in Italy on four previous occasions.

“I’ve always loved Monza. I really enjoy circuits that have a bit of history to them, and Monza has that in abundance – it’s one of the greatest tracks on the calendar,” Button explained.

“The place is unique: ever since we lost the ‘old’ Hockenheim, this has been the only place on the calendar where you run a really super-low downforce configuration. And you can feel it – the car accelerates up to speed incredibly quickly, feels skittish and loose when you’re running flat-out, and can be tricky and unpredictable under braking. But that’s what makes the place a special kind of challenge, and I really enjoy that.”

The race will also see McLaren celebrate its fiftieth birthday, with Martin Whitmarsh explaining yesterday how it felt right to be reaching the landmark at a historic circuit such as Monza. Button echoed his team principal’s thoughts and explained how he hopes to honor the milestone with a strong result.

“There’s nowhere quite like it. So it’s really appropriate that McLaren will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in the paddock over the Monza weekend.

“Both names are synonymous with motorsport history – you couldn’t imagine Formula One without them – so I’ll be hoping for a strong result to show the strength and depth that we have as a team.”

McLaren’s start to the season has been far from impressive, recording a best result of fifth at this year’s Chinese Grand Prix. However, with eight races remaining in the season, there is still time for the team to score at least one top-three finish in order to avoid its first year without a podium since 1995.

Reviewing Danica Patrick’s highs and lows at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

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So much of Danica Patrick’s fame can be traced to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It’s where she became a household name 13 years ago when she became the first woman to lead the Indianapolis 500 and emerged as a transcendent athlete.

It’s where everything started. This Sunday, it’s where everything will end, too.

In her last warmup before starting the final race of her career, Patrick had a bumpy final practice Friday on Carb Day. She was eighth fastest, but her Dallara-Chevrolet was in the garage most of the session because of an electrical problem in the engine. After returning during the final 10 minutes of the session, Patrick’s No. 13 seemed to be OK.

“At the end of the day, these are things you’re actually glad for, because if this had happened Sunday, we would have been done,” she said. “I’m glad to get the issues out of the way early on. Overall, today felt good. We made some changes when I went out the second time, and I’m feeling good about starting seventh on Sunday.”
Though she has had her share of success – along with a fourth in her debut, there was a third in 2009 and six top 10s in seven starts — Patrick has learned well how to handle frustration at the 2.5-mile track, too.

Fuel mileage might have kept her from winning her debut, a pit collision ruined 2008, and an unstable setup made 2010 a wild ride.

For a review of her up-and-down history at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and her legacy in racing, watch the video essay above that ran during Friday’s NASCAR America Motorsports Special on NBCSN.