Grosjean tops wet final practice in Australia

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Romain Grosjean managed to beat the rain clouds in Melbourne to finish on top in the final practice session for the Australian Grand Prix.

The Lotus driver set a quickest time of 1:26.929, edging out the Ferrari duo of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa in a session which saw just fifteen minutes of dry running.

The majority of the drivers opted to go out early on the medium compound tire in order to set a representative time, although Lewis Hamilton was one of the drivers who opted to stay in the pits leaving him in last place come the end of the session.

Friday pace-setter Sebastian Vettel encountered problems with his Red Bull RB9 late on in the session. With ten minutes left, the defending champion pulled over with a suspected hydraulic failure which will cause some concern for the team ahead of qualifying later today.

Mercedes’ problematic weekend continued when Nico Rosberg suffered a problem with his KERS, but the German driver still finished in P11.

Jules Bianchi was one of the surprise packages of FP3, finishing in fourteenth place just behind the Red Bull pair of Vettel and Mark Webber.

The wet running caused many of the teams to stay in the pits in order to save their tires for qualifying in case the conditions fail to improve in Melbourne. The teams at the top will be pleased with their times, although the lack of a final dry session before qualifying will have left many cursing their problems on Friday which are yet to be ironed out.

Free Practice 3 – Classification

1 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:26.929 14 laps

2 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:27.000 +0.071 7 laps

3 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:27.241 +0.312 10 laps

4 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:27.533 +0.604 9 laps

5 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:27.625 +0.696 12 laps

6 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:27.849 +0.920 19 laps

7 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:27.860 +0.931 16 laps

8 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:28.069 +1.140 15 laps

9 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1:28.253 +1.324 18 laps

10 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:28.253 +1.324 20 laps

11 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:28.486 +1.557 13 laps

12 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:29.808 +2.879 9 laps

13 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:30.073 +3.144 16 laps

14 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1:30.388 +3.459 17 laps

15 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1:30.598 +3.669 20 laps

16 Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1:30.959 +4.030 19 laps

17 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:33.236 +6.307 7 laps

18 Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1:33.527 +6.598 8 laps

19 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:39.232 +12.303 13 laps

20 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1:39.779 +12.850 13 laps

21 Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1:42.872 +15.943 13 laps

22 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:47.246 +20.317 9 laps

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.