NASCAR focuses on potential aero changes in Charlotte test

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With an eye toward improving the racing on their intermediate tracks, NASCAR ran through a series of aerodynamic changes during a test session today at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Six teams took part in the session, which was delayed by rain and continued past sundown.

Drivers included Penske Racing’s Brad Keselowski, Wood Brothers Racing’s Trevor Bayne, Richard Childress Racing’s Jeff Burton, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing’s Jamie McMurray and Michael Waltrip Racing tester Brett Moffitt, who filled in for MWR regular Brian Vickers after the latter’s announcement of him sitting out the rest of the year due to the discovery of a blood clot in his right leg.

“Our objective is to shake down some potential changes for the 2014 season,” NASCAR vice president of innovation and racing development Gene Stefanyshyn said in a statement from the sanctioning body. “We will be doing this on an ongoing basis, with an eye to continue to improve our product on the track. It is really an exercise in continuous improvement.

Three different aero configurations were run during the session. Reid Spencer of the NASCAR Wire Service reports that the list of variables tested included changes to the front splitter, rear spoiler, back bumper and ride height, as well as the addition of a wicker bill across the roof of the cars.

Echoing Stefanyshyn’s thoughts on “continuous improvement,” NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton indicated that the Charlotte test was focused on raising the competition aspect following the teams’ transition phase over to the new Generation 6 cars this year.

“As everyone knows, we did an unbelievable amount of miles last year testing many different configurations,” Pemberton said. “Our goal was to hand the car off to the teams better than the one that they ended the 2012 season with. We feel like we achieved that goal; we feel like the cars performed well, the drivers like the way the car drives.

“From that standpoint, it was a successful year…We will always continue to evaluate our competition and this is one of those programs that’s coming together.”

F1 2017 driver review: Kimi Raikkonen

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Kimi Raikkonen

Team: Scuderia Ferrari
Car No.: 7
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 7
Best Finish: P2 (Monaco, Hungary)
Pole Positions: 1
Fastest Laps: 2
Points: 205
Laps Led: 40
Championship Position: 4th

While this may have statistically been Kimi Raikkonen’s best campaign since his first year back in F1 in 2012, there is a good case for it being one of his most disappointing to date.

Raikkonen’s continued role at Ferrari has been questioned on a number of occasions, but the Finn looked capable of answering his critics heading into 2017 after impressing through pre-season testing as he appeared to get to grips well with the new-style cars.

But we soon grew accustomed to the same old story: flashes of potential, but otherwise an underwhelming, unsatisfactory campaign that saw Raikkonen be dwarfed by his teammate, Sebastian Vettel.

Raikkonen’s charge to his first pole position for over eight years in Monaco gave hope of a popular win, only for Ferrari to play its strategy in favor of title contender Vettel – why wouldn’t the team do so? – to leave him a disgruntled second.

While Vettel was able to impress at the majority of circuits, Raikkonen only looked strong at tracks that were unquestionably ‘Ferrari’ tracks, such as Hungary and Brazil. Like Vettel, Raikkonen should have racked up a good haul of points in Singapore, only for the start-line crash to sideline both Ferraris before they even reached Turn 1.

Again there is the question of ‘what could have been?’ in Malaysia had it not been for the spark plug issue on the grid, yet in Japan, Raikkonen was nowhere, finishing behind the Mercedes and Red Bulls.

Finishing just five points clear of Daniel Ricciardo despite having a much faster car for the best part of the season and the Red Bull driver’s own reliability issues sums up the disappointment of Raikkonen’s campaign.

He should have been an ally for Vettel in the title race by nicking points of Lewis Hamilton, much as Valtteri Bottas was doing for his Mercedes teammate. Instead, Raikkonen seemed to be tagging along for the best part of this season.

Season High: Pole in Monaco, his first since the 2008 French Grand Prix.

Season Low: Finishing a distant P4 at Spa – a circuit he made his own in the 2000s.