McLaren set for tough driver decision if Button retires

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McLaren Racing CEO Jonathan Neale has conceded that the team will be left with a difficult task in choosing a replacement for Jenson Button should the Briton opt to retire from Formula 1 at the end of the season.

Button is known to be considering his future in F1 after a difficult recent spell with McLaren, and had been tipped to announce his retirement from the sport ahead of this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.

However, Button did not make any announcement, and instead revealed that he remains engaged in “good talks” with McLaren about 2016 as the team tries to keep him.

If Button were to walk away from the sport, McLaren would be left with two drivers to choose from for 2016: Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne.

Both have tasted success in junior categories, with Vandoorne currently marching to the GP2 Series championship in record-breaking fashion. Magnussen (pictured left) raced for McLaren back in 2014 before being dropped in favor of Fernando Alonso, but still enjoys a high stock within the team.

Speaking to NBCSN in Suzuka on Friday, Neale admitted that McLaren will find it difficult to pick between its two outstanding junior talents should Button free up a seat at Woking for 2016.

“We do have almost an embarrassment of riches,” Neale conceded. “We select on the basis of merit. Kevin has experience with us in the car, has driven, we know him, he’s working very hard behind the scenes with us.

“Stoffel is having a tremendous season, his star is in the ascendancy as he dominates in GP2, and has driven I think a very mature and balanced year for a young guy. But it’s a big step coming into Formula 1, and we know that. It’s not impossible by any means, he’s a really exciting prospect, and the challenge will be a tough one.

“It will be a difficult decision to make, but there is no auto-succession planning mechanism that sits in behind here. We don’t have them queued up and come off in some particular order.

“It’ll be a decision for the board at the McLaren Technology Group, the shareholders. Eric [Boullier] and I will have a view, Ron [Dennis] will have a view, and that’ll be an interesing discussion.”

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.