Jenson Button believes that he could have challenged Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg for a place on the podium had a mistake in the pits not ruined his race.
When making his third stop, Button left his pit box before the front right wheel had been attached properly, causing him to stop outside the Sauber garage. Eventually, his mechanics wheeled him back, but by the time he left the pits he was well down the order.
“I don’t know what would have happened. We could have pushed the Mercedes and they were fighting between themselves so it could have been interesting. I think at worst it would have been fifth.”
Instead, Button retired from the race with three laps to go, which will entitle him to a fresh gearbox for the Chinese Grand Prix in three weeks’ time. McLaren may have struggled in the opening two races, but Button feels that the team has made a step forward.
“It is a good improvement over the last race just a week ago. We never thought we would be fighting for fifth, let alone a little bit better, so there are positives.
“But it is always very tough when you have an issue like this as it is a lot of points to throw away – even fifth is ten points.”
Subsequently, McLaren sit seventh in the constructors’ championship with just four points.
The team will be pleased with their pace today though, and Sergio Perez proved the capability of the MP4-28 by setting the fastest lap of the race late on. However, four points from the opening two races is not the start McLaren would have wanted to make, and there will be a lot of hard work in Woking ahead of the next race in China.
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.