Power fastest in final Indy 500 pre-qualifying practice

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The final pre-qualifying practice is in the books for this year’s Indianapolis 500. There were faster speeds, more tows, and a new name atop the timesheets heading into Pole Day qualifying on NBC Sports Network and NBC Sports Live Extra, beginning at 11 a.m. ET.

Will Power recorded the morning’s, and the month’s, fastest lap of 229.808. But like all other fastest laps this month, the Verizon Team Penske driver set his thanks to a tow.

“It’s pretty heavy on air, you could say. It’s pretty humid out there, but it’s cool,” he said. “It’s very difficult to predict what to run trim-wise for qualifying. We’ll see when the temperature comes. If it’s similar to this, I think we have a good idea. We’re just working it out. You’ve just got to make an educated guess. When I was out there, getting little bits of moisture on your visor makes you nervy. You’re not sure if it’s going to start raining in a different area. I think we’re in pretty good shape.”

The rest of the top five included his Team Penske teammate AJ Allmendinger, followed by three Hondas: Josef Newgarden, Graham Rahal and Simon Pagenaud.

It’s hard to read too much into these times because of the tows, the various downforce levels on the car, and the temperatures. Power did record the morning’s fastest solo lap, 228.1 per NBC Sports Network analyst Jon Beekhuis, so that is something to note.

 

F1 2017 driver review: Sergio Perez

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Sergio Perez

Team: Sahara Force India
Car No.: 11
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P4 (Spain)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 100
Championship Position: 7th

While failing to hit the podium as he did in both 2015 and 2016, Sergio Perez once again finished the year as Formula 1’s leading midfield team driver, but faced a greater fight from within Force India in the shape of Esteban Ocon.

Perez has long been knocking on the door of F1’s top teams should an opportunity come up, and 2017 saw him continue his solid if unspectacular form. The dominance of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari meant any finish higher than seventh was impressive, something he managed to do on five occasions.

But there were some missed opportunities along the way, most significantly in Baku. Force India had been quick all weekend, with Perez charging to sixth on the grid, and when drama struck at the front, he and teammate Ocon were eyeing a podium finish as a minimum.

Contact between the two forced Perez to retire and prompted Ocon to pit for repairs, leaving the team without the top-three finish it targeted heading into the season. With Lance Stroll taking P3 for Williams and Daniel Ricciardo winning the race, a maiden victory for Force India was not out of the realm of imagination.

Perez and Ocon came to blows on a number of occasions, with the final straw coming in Spa when they twice touched on-track, prompting Force India to introduce team orders. Perez finished the year 13 points clear of Ocon in the final standings, meeting his own pre-season target of 100 points, yet the Frenchman had arguably made the bigger impression at Force India through his first full season in F1.

Force India remains the top underdog in F1 with Perez spearheading its charge, but it is difficult to see either taking the final step to becoming true contenders at the front of the field anytime soon, as solid as their displays have been.

Season High: P4 in Spain after retirements for the ‘big three’.

Season Low: Losing a sure-fire podium, if not a win, in Baku after contact with Ocon.