Tracks have become too forgiving, says Hamilton

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Lewis Hamilton says modern Formula One tracks don’t punish drivers for making mistakes.

Astroturf [artificial grass] and tarmac run-offs have replaced grass and gravel traps at many circuits. The 2008 world champion says that means drivers are getting away with mistakes which would have cost them dearly in years gone by.

“If you watch Sebastian Vettel now he always runs over the Astroturf and over the curb a little more than he should, going beyond the white line, which you’re not actually allowed to do but they let you get away with it,” Hamilton explained to the Daily Mail.

“In Senna’s day, if he went one foot over that curb, it would be grass and he would spin, and be penalized. He would be right on the limit, rather than over the limit — and I respect that style of driving more.

“Now you can go beyond and get back because modern tracks have run-off areas. They used to be gravel. Hit that, and your car was damaged or stuck. Now you can push beyond, go wide and come back on.”

“When you do and get away with it, you think, ‘Great’, but the reason I love street circuits like Monaco is there is no room for error and if you make a mistake, you pay. I don’t want people to pay by being hurt, but losing time, or having the car stop; that’s what racing is about.”

However Hamilton discovered just how punishing artificial run-off areas can be during last year’s Korean Grand Prix when a loose piece of Astroturf became attached to his car, slowing him down.

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.