“I haven’t forgotten how to drive” – Ricciardo

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Toro Rosso driver Daniel Ricciardo admits he is perplexed by his car’s performance after an “awful” Bahrain Grand Prix.

“Today’s lap chart makes pretty grim reading,” he admitted after the race. “I had the slowest lap of the race, eight-tenths slower than one of the Marussias and I finished the race only 9s clear of one of the Caterhams.”

“As I haven’t forgotten how to drive in the last seven days, there’s something wrong with the car that we need to understand. That performance has gone somewhere.

“It has to be something big – but not necessarily something easy to find. There’s a variable in there that we have to dig out.”

Ricciardo finished a lapped sixteenth having scored a career-best seventh in China one week earlier.

“Last week was a great result and it was always going to be difficult to repeat it,” said Ricciardo. “Our pace on Friday wasn’t good – though not to the extent that we saw in the race – and we didn’t see anything to suggest we were going to be strong.”

Toro Rosso expected big gains from their STR8 after reshuffling their design team last year. But Ricciardo says their results so far have been mixed:

“Looking at these first four races as a whole, we haven’t really found a happy medium. China was great, the other three haven’t been up to scratch, so it’s difficult to assess where we are.

“Something to look forward to is that the next race, in Barcelona, is likely to be a little bit more like China than any of the others. We’ll also have updates on the car in Spain, which will be good.”

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.