Alonso lacking pace to challenge Vettel

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Fernando Alonso has admitted that Ferrari have a great deal of work to do in order to challenge pace-setter Sebastian Vettel this weekend.

“I’m not expecting any major surprises here, we already knew we were not the quickest and that was confirmed today. The car responds well, but we know there is still much to do if we want to fight with the very best.”

Alonso finished a strong third in FP1 behind Vettel and teammate Felipe Massa, but Ferrari could not continue this good form in FP2. Double-champion Alonso could only finish sixth, over eight-tenths off Vettel’s time. However, he was still pleased with his efforts during practice.

“Overall, this was a very productive Friday, as we did a lot of laps and got through an important initial analysis of the behavior of the two types of Pirelli tires available for this race.”

Ferrari look to be in the running for a podium this weekend, and although Alonso was satisfied with his pace, he did admit that it may change on Saturday or Sunday should the predicted rain showers arrive in Melbourne.

“Our efforts were helped by particularly favorable weather with sunshine and summery temperatures. However, the weather is expected to change completely from tomorrow, with wind, rain and a significant drop in temperature, which could influence Sunday’s race.”

Despite not matching Red Bull on Friday, Ferrari are in a better position than this time last season as Alonso and Massa struggled with the F2012. Both drivers have revealed their delight with the new car, the F138, and if they can develop the car over the coming weeks, Red Bull may face stiff competition in defending their world championships.

IndyCar 2017 driver review: Ed Carpenter

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. The 2017 season behind the wheel was better for Ed Carpenter than either of the last two years, but still wasn’t ideal results-wise in his six oval starts.

Ed Carpenter, No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

  • 2016: 25th Place (5 Starts), Best Finish 18th, Best Start 5th, 0 Top-5, 0 Top-10, 1 Lap Led, 11.2 Avg. Start, 21.8 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 22nd Place (6 Starts), Best Finish 7th, Best Start 2nd, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 5 Laps Led, 11.3 Avg. Start, 12.3 Avg. Finish

Ed Carpenter’s 2017 season was largely one of frustration, both behind the wheel and as a team owner.

While a respectable turnaround in results occurred – Carpenter finished between seventh and 12th in five of his six oval races after a nightmare season of ending 18th or worse in each of his 2016 starts – this is still not what he sets out to strive for in the races he does. Lost opportunities loomed larger than any official result he or the Ed Carpenter Racing team achieved.

Carpenter and new teammate JR Hildebrand, in for the departed Josef Newgarden, dominated preseason testing in Phoenix but Hildebrand could only muster third in the race, Carpenter a season-best seventh. Then at Indianapolis, Carpenter (second) and Hildebrand (sixth) flew the flag for Chevrolet in qualifying and practice pace, but they fell to 11th and 16th on race day owing to a front-wing change and late-race penalty for passing before a restart.

Both drivers got collected in incidents at Texas. Hildebrand qualified and finished a season-best second in Iowa but that result came only after the ECR crew rebuilt his car from a crash in practice. Then Carpenter had a practice crash in Pocono and despite a rapid rebuild, they missed the clock to qualify by mere minutes and were unable to do so. Carpenter’s spin on a slick Gateway track at the start of the race sent him over Will Power’s nose assembly in one of the scarier looking incidents of the year, although fortunately he was OK.

In a similar refrain as we often write, it’s not that Carpenter’s lost his ability to drive and he remains one of the series’ savviest and smartest people in the paddock. There have been a lot of extenuating circumstances of late, and it almost felt as though this team had “empty nest” components. Since September, Carpenter has had to secure his team’s future with a move away from its Speedway, Ind. shop, line up Spencer Pigot for a full-time drive replacing Hildebrand in the No. 21 car, find a new road/street course driver in the No. 20 car, and manage both driving and owning himself.