The moment has almost arrived for Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo.
Only three races remain before the young Australian can start the transition from STR to Red Bull Racing, where he’ll become the new teammate to four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel starting next season.
And as Ricciardo’s big opportunity looms ever closer, the pressure will only build more and more. For example, RBR boss Christian Horner has high expectations for him, telling the media this past week that he thinks Ricciardo “will be a bit of a surprise” in his first year alongside Vettel.
It’ll all be a massive challenge for Ricciardo, who broke into Formula One back in 2011. But it is one that he is accepting whole-heartedly.
“It definitely spurs me on,” he said to NBCSN’s Will Buxton during this weekend’s proceedings at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. “The more I grow up and the more I stay in Formula One, the more I realize how much I want to do it – how much I want to be here, and how much I want to be the best.
“I want to measure myself against the best guys and the fact that [Vettel] is in the form of his life is so refreshing. If I can find a way to give him a bit of a push, it’s going to be a very rewarding feeling.”
For more of Buxton’s one-on-one interview with Ricciardo, check out the video above. Ricciardo will start ninth for tomorrow’s race from Abu Dhabi, which you can see live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra at 7:30 a.m. ET.
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.