Rosberg makes it three-in-a-row for Mercedes in Spain

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Nico Rosberg has secured Mercedes’ third consecutive pole position during qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix today at the Circuit de Catalunya.

The German driver led for large parts of qualifying, bettering his own fastest time late on in Q3 to finish ahead of his teammate, Lewis Hamilton, who will join him on the front row.

Mercedes enjoyed a sizeable gap to the chasing teams, with Sebastian Vettel posing the greatest challenge to their front row lock out in P3. He finished just ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, with Lotus looking particularly good on the harder tire. For Ferrari, qualifying was not as expected, locking out the third row of the grid with Alonso 5th and Massa 6th, which will be disappointing following their practice performances. Romain Grosjean will line up 7th tomorrow, followed by Mark Webber for Red Bull. Sergio Perez was delighted to make it into Q3, qualifying 9th ahead of Paul di Resta for Force India.

Q1 saw Mercedes finish the session on top, with Hamilton and Rosberg both running well on the softer tire. However, both Ferrari and Lotus showed good pace on the harder compound, whilst Red Bull also ran strongly at the front. Toro Rosso had a good session, finishing P10 and P11, and McLaren just about made their way through into Q2 as Perez and Button finished 14th and 15th respectively. For Williams, the session capped off a year of change. Twelve months ago, Pastor Maldonado started on pole and won the race, yet he could only qualify P18 today, one place behind his teammate. Caterham won the battle at the back, with Giedo van der Garde outqualifying both Marussias and his teammat for the first time this season.

Just as they did in Q1, Mercedes finished on top in Q2, but it required a late lap from Lewis Hamilton to make it into the final qualifying session, although his time was 0.5 seconds quicker than the rest of the field. Ferrari managed to make it through on one run once again, but McLaren’s weekend went from bad to worse. Jenson Button could only finish 14th, although Perez did manage to make it into the final qualifying shootout. Paul di Resta also posted a late lap to make it through, squeezing out both Toro Rosso drivers and his teammate Adrian Sutil. Sauber failed to make it into the final session, with Hulkenberg and Gutierrez lining up 15th and 16th respectively.

Qualifying has certainly thrown up an interesting result, although many will remind Mercedes that they have not won from pole position so far this season. However, every GP at the Circuit de Catalunya since 1996 has been won from the front row, which will certainly give the Silver Arrows some hope heading into tomorrow’s Spanish Grand Prix.

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.