McLaren looks for more progress at Shanghai

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McLaren came through with better overall pace in Malaysia last weekend, but with just four points between their men Jenson Button and Sergio Perez after two races, the Woking gang is hoping to improve even further in two weeks at China.

“We’ve got some good data and I think we’ve now got an opportunity to go out there and improve upon it,” said McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh (pictured). “We know what we had [in Malaysia] isn’t optimal for various reasons.

“We did some experiments, it responded to those experiments and I would be very disappointed if we don’t take another step in China and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Button was threatening for a solid points-paying finish in Malaysia until he was undone by a pit road error that saw his right front wheel not attached properly (the former World Champion would bow out of the race with three laps left). Perez came away with a ninth-place finish for two points, his first points for the team.

As for the recent team orders controversies that have surrounded rivals Red Bull and Mercedes, Whitmarsh believes that his team can’t really say anything about it, citing the 2007 season that saw Kimi Raikkonen win the title for Ferrari in the final race of the year over McLaren’s then-combo of Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.

“No, I don’t think the team order headlines are good for F1 personally,” he said in comments to PA Sport. “But it is very easy for me to get very pious and say ‘Well, we don’t do it’, and condemn others. I don’t want to do that.

“Anyone can turn around to us and say, ‘In 2007, you threw away a championship. You could have favored either driver and they would have been World Champion’, which everyone knows is true.”

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.