Munoz’s first IndyCar street course day ends in one piece

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With his Firestone Indy Lights commitments out of the way for the weekend, Carlos Munoz was available for a last-minute IZOD IndyCar Series cameo Sunday in Toronto. Munoz got the nod from Panther Racing to deputize for Ryan Briscoe, who broke his wrist in Saturday’s race and was knocked out of action.

The only issue going into Sunday? Munoz, the 2013 Indianapolis 500 rookie-of-the-year, had yet to sample a Dallara DW12 chassis on a road or street course. Ever.

“Yeah, I was really surprised because it was really late, and I don’t any experience in an Indy car on a road course. None in my life,” the 21-year-old Colombian said before the race. “I don’t even have my seat here from IndyCar, from the Indy 500. I was surprised. I talked to Michael (Andretti), I talked to my engineers, I talked to some other guys, and they said you have to take this chance. This is an opportunity to get more experience, more laps.”

Munoz got his first laps in in the morning warmup, and ran a smooth, consistent race all things considered. With nothing else to prove other than keeping it between the barriers, Munoz ran competitive lap times and brought the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet home in P17, one lap down.

“It was a long race and a hard race for me,” he said afterwards. “It was basically my first time in an IndyCar on a street course, and I didn’t know what to expect to be in a race here with so many cars out there. We continued to drop lap times and I got more and more comfortable with each lap, and by the end we put together quite a good lap, which are all positive things. It’s good work from the National Guard crew and my goal was to finish, and I finished, and I’m very happy to have this opportunity today.”

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.