‘Hungry Heidi’ pleasing Sebastian Vettel

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Three-time world champion Sebastian Vettel has a tradition of naming his car ahead of each season, and 2013 is no different with the RB9 being christened “hungry Heidi.” Humorous names aside, the defending champion appears to be working well with his new car.

“Of course it is important to come here with the feeling that you have done everything possible to start the season in a good position.

“We have been working very hard in the factory between Barcelona and before flying out to Australia, so for ourselves the feeling is very positive. What that really means we will find out on Saturday.”

Vettel set the quickest time in both Friday practice sessions which surprised many following Red Bull’s disappointing pace in pre-season. The German driver was quick not to get too carried away with his success, although he was pleased with the result.

“The car is doing exactly the things that I like, but also that you should not read too much into the Friday times. Of course it is better to be at the top of the time sheet than somewhere in the midfield.”

With Red Bull, Ferrari, Lotus and Mercedes separated by less than one second in practice, qualifying could be incredibly tight, and Vettel also expects the field to get even closer on Saturday.

“I think we haven’t seen everything from the others on the soft tires so I expect it to be much closer tomorrow. I hope that we will be able to take the fantastic balance that the car has right now into the next two days.”

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.