Sergio Perez has found rough waters so far in his first season with McLaren. Hampered by an underachieving car, the Mexican driver has collected just two points so far this Formula One season and has even been urged by McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh to “toughen up” against his rivals on the track.
But while acknowledging the difficulties he currently faces, the man they call “Checo” is confident that the Woking gang is heading for a turnaround.
“It is no secret that we are not performing at the level that we want to, so we are all disappointed,” Perez told the series’ official website, Formula1.com. “We are ambitious and are here to win and we are far from doing that at the moment, so of course, you look for reasons and blame. But we are all confident that our time will come, that success is probably waiting just around the corner.”
Perez’s three podiums for Sauber last year had many tagging him as a potential star, and those predictions were fueled further upon his jump to McLaren to race alongside former World Champion Jenson Button. With things not quite going to plan, Perez admits that the difference between his expectations going into 2013 and the reality is “very far.”
However, even in trying times, there are lessons to be learned that can prove very important down the road. That appears to be the tack Perez is taking as he tries to make the most of — at least for now — a less than optimal situation with the MP4-28.
“I also have to say that I’ve learned a lot in the last couple of months and over the first three races, so I can say that I’m a better driver now than I was,” he said.
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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.