Magnussen always learning during his rookie season

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Kevin Magnussen has spoken about the big learning curve he has faced since entering Formula 1 at the beginning of the season.

The McLaren driver made his debut at the Australian Grand Prix, where he finished in second place after a faultless drive. However, he has failed to live up to the high expectations that followed this result, scoring just three points in the last five races.

“I think thinking back to Australia, it was a great result and a good weekend and a good memory, but if I compare where I am now to Australia, I know so much more now,” Magnussen explained. “What I’ve learned since Australia is massive, about the tires, about the car, about Formula 1 in general. I really feel that I as a driver have made progress.

“We as a team are moving forwards as well. it’s just very difficult when we are a long way behind. The progress we’re making is small compared to the gap that we have, but as long as we make progress, I think we’ll be alright.”

Magnussen’s relative inexperience was cited as a possible reason for McLaren’s recent poor form. He was thought to be unable of providing feedback that was on a par with that of veteran teammate Jenson Button, but the Dane thinks otherwise.

“Our feedback is never the same, it’s always different, which is good, because you get different inputs and different ideas,” he said. “I don’t feel like I’m holding the team back in the development of the car. I feel that I’m contributing with good feedback, and I’m saying what I feel, and what I feel is right.

“I don’t hold back and feel shy, I open my mouth and as a young kid coming to F1, you need to be brave enough to tell your opinion and open your mouth. So whether it’s right or wrong, I’ll let them pick that out, and I feel that the best way to learn is to be open and to say what it is I think.

“They understand that I have very limited experience. They tell me what they think is right and wrong, and then they listen a lot as well, which is what I’m really proud of in the team. I’m proud of the team that they listen so much to me, and that they use my feedback even though I’m so inexperienced, and it gives me confidence too to open my mouth.”

Magnussen was on track to finish higher up the order in Monaco, but a run-in with Kimi Raikkonen meant that he could only finish in 10th place.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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