Neale: McLaren must respect Button’s decision

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McLaren CEO Jonathan Neale has said that the team must respect whatever decision Jenson Button makes about his future in Formula 1 as speculation about the Briton retiring from the sport continues to swirl.

Button had been tipped to announce ahead of this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix that he would be walking away from F1 at the end of the season.

However, he confirmed on Thursday that he was still engaged in “good talks” with the team about his future, suggesting that he could still be on the grid in 2016.

In Friday’s team personnel press conference, Neale re-affirmed that McLaren is keen to keep Button for 2016, but that it must respect the decision that Button takes.

“I get the sense from the media there was a big anti-climax yesterday and there was a lot of discussion about where Jenson was at,” Neale said.

“Jenson is a fantastic guy, a world champion and a big part of the family at Honda and McLaren – he’s been with us for six seasons – and we’re contracted with him, we want him to stay, we like him very much.

“But if your driver doesn’t really want to be in the seat we have to respect that. I really hope that we have done enough between us to continue those discussions with him and have the confidence to have him with us, and that’s what we’d like.”

Despite appearing to hint that Button had already made up his mind and wanted to leave McLaren, Neale clarified his comments when speaking to NBCSN following the press conference.

“Given the speculation that has been around and some of the things that Jenson has said, it can’t be of great surprise to either you or the audience that there is some reflection or introspection going on in Jenson,” Neale said.

“That’s what my quote was and I’m merely stating what I think is the blindingly obvious. We have a contract with Jenson, there’s no ambiguity about that.

“We really like Jenson, he’s been a fantastic driver and ambassador. He’s had some fearsome teammates, recently in Lewis and now with Fernando, and even though we’re having a troubling year, it’s a fantastic environment in which to move the programme forwards.

“We’ve learned a lot from both Jenson and Fernando together. I’d like to keep it like that, but, if there’s introspection and reflection going on, I have to respect that.”

Travis Pastrana leads flag-to-flag in Nitro Rallycross as the series returns to America

Pastrana Nitro Rallycross
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Travis Pastrana waited until the final trip around ERX Motor Park to take his Joker Lap – a longer way around the course that all drivers must do at least once in a race – and came out cleanly to win his first Nitro Rallycross race of 2022. With this win, Pastrana is the third driver to visit Victory Lane in the first three rounds of the 2022-23 season.

“This is the closest to a motocross track,” Pastrana told Katie Osborne on Peacock. “Thank you so much for a beautiful facility. It’s been a rough start to the season and I’m so thankful to be back out here. We had a good run in the side-by-side and now for this. This is much needed.”

Another thing needed was the sense of improvement. And Pastrana earned that affirmation each time he completed a lap around the course.

“I get my lap times read out and they said ‘fastest time of the week,’ ‘fastest time of the week’ (each time around) ” Pastrana said. “This is really special. We’re a long way behind in the championship, but welcome to America.”

In a pre-race press conference, Pastrana said that as Nitro Rallycross heads back to America, it was time for an American to win and he made good on his promise. Pastrana took the early lead over Robin Larsson and let the back of his Subaru hang out, taking risks he might not otherwise take if not for his need to win.

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Larsson’s second-place finish completed a perfect sweep of the podium in three rounds. In fact, he has not yet finished worse than second after winning the opening round at Lydden Hill in the United Kingdom and finishing second at Strangnas in Sweeden.

Fraser McConnel rounded out the podium for his best result of the season. He finished fourth in each of the first two rounds.

Last year, Pastrana finished second in this race to Scott Speed before narrowly edging his teammate for the championship.

Andreas Bakkerud crashed in prelims, but rebounded to finish just off the block in fourth. Bakkerud won the second round ahead of his teammate Larsson.

Oliver Bennett completed the top five.

Minneapolis is the first of three rounds scheduled in the United States. Next on the schedule is Glen Helen, Calif. on Octo 30 and then Phoenix at Wild Horse Pass on November 12th. Nitro Rallycross will then head to Saudi Arabia in December to continue their 2022-23 season.