F1: Jenson Button needs to try harder, says McLaren boss Ron Dennis

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Ron Dennis realizes that his McLaren team has not had the greatest of seasons and doesn’t have the greatest of cars.

But that isn’t keeping him from spurring on his veteran driver, Jenson Button, to do better.

Button, the 2009 World Champion, is ahead of rookie teammate Kevin Magnussen in points but not by a resounding margin (43-29).

After coming up with a solid fourth-place finish in Canada, he regressed in the most recent Grand Prix in Austria, finishing 11th.

“Do I want him to try harder? Of course I do,” Dennis said of Button in a recent interview with Britain’s Sky Sports. “He’s a highly paid Grand Prix driver.

“Yes, we’re not giving him the best car. Yes, it’s challenging for him to win in this car. But he could do his bit. And Kevin has got to make it as difficult for him as possible.”

In regards to Magnussen, Dennis believes that his efforts are giving Button “a big wake-up call.”

Dennis continued: “In some ways, you say: ‘Great, we’ve made a great choice with Kevin.’ But in other ways you say: ‘Come on Jenson, you are a world champion and absolutely one thing you can do on a consistent basis – and you should be doing it – is beating your teammate.”

Button has chalked up a better overall finish than Magnussen in six of the eight races this season, but Magnussen has more finishes in the points with five to Button’s four.

However, since they both hit the podium in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix (Magnussen 2nd, Button 3rd), Button has had the best points finish between the pair with the aforementioned fourth in Canada.

With that said though, it’s clear Button hasn’t exactly blown Magnussen out of the water. Some of that can certainly be placed on the deficiencies of the MP4-29, but it looks like Dennis thinks that Button himself needed a bit of extra motivation, too.

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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