Vettel made to wait for fourth world championship

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Sebastian Vettel has been forced to wait for his fourth Formula One world championship after Fernando Alonso finished fourth in today’s Japanese Grand Prix, meaning that the title race remains alive heading to the Indian Grand Prix at the end of the month.

The German driver entered the race weekend at Suzuka with a 77 point lead, meaning that if he won the race on Sunday and Fernando Alonso finished ninth or lower, he would clinch his fourth consecutive world championship.

Although Vettel completed his side of the deal by winning the race ahead of Mark Webber and Romain Grosjean, Alonso’s fourth place finish means that the German driver can still be beaten in the drivers’ championship.

Realistically though, it is merely a matter of time before we are crowning Vettel for the fourth year in a row. He heads to the Indian Grand Prix in two weeks’ time enjoying a 90 point lead with just 100 points remaining, meaning that Alonso must outscore Vettel by at least eleven points at the Buddh International Circuit.

However, the odds are stacked against Alonso, given that he has not won a race since the Spanish Grand Prix back in May and the fact that Vettel has won the last five races and both of the previous Indian Grands Prix. Even before the race this weekend, Alonso admitted that he had turned his attention to the constructors’ championship where Ferrari have become embroiled in a battle for second place along with Mercedes and Lotus.

For Vettel, the fourth title is more of a formality than ever. This run of five consecutive wins has seen his championship lead swell from 38 to 90 points, and it is clear that were are currently witnessing one of the greatest drivers in the history of the sport.

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.