Button: Impossible to predict F1 pecking order


Jenson Button is unsure how the F1 field is shaping up ahead the first race of the season in three weeks’ time, saying that he has little idea of where McLaren lies in the pecking order.

The British team has endured a difficult pre-season due teething problems with the new Honda-powered MP4-30 car. A recurrence of Thursday’s issue limited Button to just 24 laps on Saturday in Barcelona, giving the Briton plenty of time to see what the other teams are doing.

“I’ve had time to look at the screens, but I haven’t got a clue what’s going on in terms of who’s quick and who isn’t,” Button said. “Really difficult to read. I think you can expect the Mercedes to be the quickest, looking at the long runs.

“I think Ferrari is pretty strong but then I really don’t know where Williams is, really difficult to read. Sauber looks reasonably good which is good for them, very happy for them at the moment. Red Bull, they look pretty good.

“But it’s tricky. You put the soft tire on some people and it gains them 1.5 seconds; some people it’s three to four tenths. It’s all very random at the moment.”

Button believes that this sets the scene for a closely-fought first race of the year in Australia on March 15, contrasting the dominance of Mercedes in 2014.

“I think it makes it great for the first race and really makes it exciting,” Button said. “You could read last year, you could see the Mercedes [first] then the Williams was second quickest, then probably us third quickest in winter testing.

“Whereas this year, I haven’t got a clue which is great. I think it’ll be a mixed-up field at the first race.”

McLaren’s test came to an early end in Barcelona as an accident for Fernando Alonso cut short the team’s running. The Spaniard was airlifted to a local hospital for a check-up, but was confirmed to be “uninjured and fine” by the team on Sunday afternoon.

NTT re-signs as IndyCar title sponsor in multiyear deal starting with the 2024 season

James Black/Penske Entertainment

The IndyCar Series has re-signed NTT as its title sponsor in a multiyear agreement starting in 2024.

NTT, a global information technology and communications company based in Japan, became the series’ title sponsor before the 2019 season after starting as a sponsor of the No. 10 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing.

NTT Data (a subsidiary of parent company Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp.) will remain the official technology partner of IndyCar, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indy 500 and the NASCAR Brickyard weekend.

With the extension, an IndyCar spokesman said NTT would become the second-longest title sponsor in series history. The longest title sponsor was PPG from 1980-97 (under the CART sanction of the Champ Car Series).

NTT replaced Verizon, which was IndyCar’s title sponsor from 2014-18 after IZOD from 2010-13.

“NTT is an excellent partner across our enterprise with strong expertise and a deep commitment to our sport,” Penske Corp. chairman and IndyCar owner Roger Penske said in a release. “From Smart Venue technology at the Racing Capital of the World to the reimagined Series mobile application, NTT is transforming the fan experience in new and innovative ways. We look forward to a bright future together.”

NTT has used artificial intelligence-enabled optical detection technology at IMS to provide information to the track’s operations and security teams, helping improve fan traffic flow and safety, the track said.

“IndyCar is a great partner for NTT Data because of our shared commitment to driving innovation, increasing sustainability and delivering amazing experiences,” NTT Data CEO Kaz Nishihata said in a release. “We also appreciate how IndyCar is so diverse, with drivers from 15 different countries, and races that range from short ovals and superspeedways to road and street courses. It’s both an incredible sport and a wonderful example for our world.”

NTT also has been instrumental in helping redesign the IndyCar app and providing more race and driver data for use in NBC Sports’ broadcasts by utilizing 140 data points from every car in the field.

“NTT is fully invested in the development and growth of our sport and has already established a terrific track record in our industry with problem-solving capabilities and access to top talent and tools,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said.

Said NTT Data Services CEO Bob Pryor: “We’re thrilled to continue our collaborations that enhance and expand the fan experience for motorsports and serve as proof points for data analytics, AI, and other innovative digital technologies. For more than a century, this racing series has pioneered innovations making driving safer for everyone, and by continuing this relationship, we will accelerate the pace of innovations and new technologies, particularly related to sustainability that ultimately can benefit organizations, communities and individuals around the world.”

Starting as a Japanese telephone company, NTT grew into a $100 billion-plus tech services giant with U.S. operations based in Plano, Texas.