Red Bull drivers expecting a tight race on Sunday

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Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber are both pleased with their efforts in today’s practice for the Spanish Grand Prix, despite having lost most of the first session due to wet weather.

This lack of running made testing the new upgrades particularly difficult, but defending champion Vettel believes that this was not too great an issue due to the regulations.

“We have some new parts here but the days of big, big upgrades don’t really happen now with the regulations how they are,” Vettel explained in a team statement. “This afternoon was fairly conclusive, but this morning wasn’t really much good with the weather.”

Despite many drivers suffering from high wear on their Pirellis and Paul di Resta experiencing a tire failure, Vettel does not believe that the strategy taken will be too different to that of recent races.

“It’s hard to say much about the harder tire, I think the number of pit stops will be the same here in this race as at the last few.”

2010 race winner Mark Webber believes that the grand prix will be a tight one, and practice suggested that Ferrari would be challenging Red Bull in Spain this weekend.

“It looks reasonably tight,” Webber said. “We couldn’t have got more out of it today really, the weather made things a bit tricky, but it was a pretty good day overall.”

Red Bull will be pleased to have topped FP2 so resoundingly ahead of Ferrari, but Fernando Alonso’s home crowd could spur him on to challenge both Vettel and Webber during the race on Sunday. With one win apiece in Spain, the Red Bull duo will be keen on doubling their tallies as they look to seize the upper hand in both championships.

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.