Despite steering issue, Chaves scores season-best P9 in Detroit

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Among the drivers who either equaled or set their best career results in Detroit on Sunday was Verizon IndyCar Series rookie Gabby Chaves, who finished ninth in the No. 98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda for Bryan Herta Autosport.

The ninth place ended a string of consistent, but lower than hoped for results of 15th through 18th place finishes, where Chaves had finished in each of the first seven races.

Sunday in the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Presented by Quicken Loans race two almost produced the same result. A mid-race steering wheel change – the same issue as affected Will Power – dropped Chaves down the order, and took him out of a potential top-five finish.

Still, it marked the best result of the season for the rookie.

“Yeah, it looked like any restart was always a close call,” Chaves told MotorSportsTalk post-race. “Our car didn’t feel like we were too good on full wet conditions but as it started drying we got competitive even on the wet tires.

“On dries, the car turned on. We got a few positions on luck. We made some overtakes. Unfortunately somewhere in that point our steering wheel broke and we had to make an unscheduled stop when we were already good on fuel to make it to the end. We were on the same strategy as top four guys. We lost a few spots there.”

The result capped off a trying weekend for the team, which struggled for pace and on setup on Friday and left Chaves 23rd and last on the grid going into race one.

“Having one of the toughest weekends we’ve had so far, not really being able to figure what to do figure out with the car, it was good to at least see we made the progress in the race,” Chaves said. “We made some overtakes and got our best finish. Now we go to Texas. We should be strong on the ovals.”

The result came as Chaves’ team owner, Herta, and spotter Mike Burrell were in Fort Lauderdale for the Red Bull Global Rallycross opener. Patrik Sandell and Austin Dyne raced the two GRC Supercars with Colette Davis in the team’s GRC Lites car for Bryan Herta Rallysport.

Max Verstappen shows speed in Austria; Lewis Hamilton lacking pace

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen posted the fastest time Friday, and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton lacked pace in the second practice session for the Styrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen was 0.043 seconds quicker than Valtteri Bottas – Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes – and 0.217 ahead of Racing Point driver Sergio Perez.

“The car already feels better than last week, the balance is a lot nicer and we have made a good step,” said Verstappen, who did not finish last Sunday’s season-opening Austrian GP after starting from second.

“It is too early to say how we are looking against Mercedes, but we are quite happy. We have tried a few different directions to understand the car a bit more and we are heading the right way.”

Hamilton was only sixth fastest, about 0.7 seconds slower than Verstappen. Hamilton spent a chunk of time in the garage while his team worked on his car.

“It was quite far off, so there’s a lot of work to do in the background to figure it out,” he said. “Others out there are quick and Valtteri’s obviously got good pace.”

Despite adding a new front wing to its car, struggling Ferrari had a dismal afternoon.

Charles Leclerc was only ninth quickest and 1 second slower than Verstappen, while teammate Sebastian Vettel lagged about 2 seconds behind Verstappen in 16th.

Daniel Ricciardo lost control of his Renault car early into the second session, swerving left off the track and thudding backward into a protective tire wall. He climbed out unharmed, other than a slight limp, but the left rear tire was mangled and the car was lifted off the track by a crane.

Alexander Albon spun twice, the Red Bull driver’s second spin taking him right off the track and into gravel.

Earlier, Perez was fastest in the first practice ahead of Verstappen and Bottas, with Hamilton fourth quickest and Vettel only 10th in sunny conditions.

That session was briefly interrupted when Nicholas Latifi’s Williams car pulled over to the side with a gearbox issue.

The incident brought out yellow flags, forcing drivers to slow down. But McLaren driver Lando Norris overtook Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and got a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

Norris, 20, finished third at the Austrian GP last weekend, becoming the youngest British driver in F1 history to get on the podium and third youngest in F1.

The upcoming race is changing names from last week but is at the same track. It is surrounded by the Styrian mountains.

A third and final practice will be held on Saturday morning before qualifying in the afternoon, with heavy rain and storms in the forecast.

If third practice and qualifying are washed out, drivers take their grid positions from where they placed in second practice.

“It would definitely suck if we didn’t get to qualify,” said Hamilton, who started fifth and finished fourth last weekend. “It would make it challenging.”

However, qualifying also could be moved to Sunday morning.

“I don’t expect to be on pole position with this (practice) lap,” Verstappen said.