Davison gets an IndyCar encore at Sonoma

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James Davison will make his second IZOD IndyCar Series start in as many races at Sonoma Raceway this weekend (Sunday, 4 p.m. EST, NBCSN). The Australian did a respectable job at Mid-Ohio a few weeks ago as he started 16th and finished 15th in Dale Coyne Racing’s second car.

Although Ryo Hirakawa, a 19-year-old Japanese Formula 3 driver, tested the car last week, Davison was available last minute for the race weekend itself.  One thing Davison will need is a new crash helmet; his did not pass INDYCAR regulations so he needed to borrow Ryan Briscoe’s at Mid-Ohio, as his countryman was still sidelined from injury.

“I’m excited to be back in the No. 18 car at Sonoma. Mid-Ohio was a solid debut that I came out of pleased and having learned a lot,” Davison told IndyCar.com. “With some experience now under my belt and added confidence that goes with it, I must aim to go another step forward this weekend. Finishing the race again will be most important.”

I saw Davison a couple weeks ago at the combined ALMS/GRAND-AM weekend at Road America, and he said at the time that a Sonoma drive was “possible.” So unlike Stefan Wilson, who will make his IndyCar debut in the car next weekend at Baltimore, Davison has more than one race with which to prove himself in an audition for future outings in 2014.

Davison is one of four part-timers in the 25-car Sonoma field, the others Briscoe at Panther Racing, the returning JR Hildebrand at Barracuda Racing and the debuting Lucas Luhr for RW/Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing.

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.