Kovalainen: Caterham the most likely option in 2014

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Heikki Kovalainen has confirmed that he is in advanced negotiations with Caterham over a return to the team in 2014 after a season on the sidelines as their reserve driver.

Kovalainen raced for the backmarkers between 2010 and 2012, but he was dropped at the end of last season in favor of Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde, both of whom brought financial backing to the team. However, he decided to stay with the team as a reserve driver before getting the chance to race for Lotus in the USA and this weekend in Brazil after Kimi Raikkonen pulled out of the final two races to undergo back surgery. Nevertheless, the Finn does not believe that this stint with Lotus will have any impact on his plans for 2014.

“I think that it will not have any impact,” Kovalainen explained. “We’ve prepared the plans for next year already before these two races we’re happening. I think it will not have any impact, you never know in Formula One but my gut feeling is that it will not have an impact. I’m just trying to help the team as much as I can.”

He confirmed that Caterham would be the most likely destination in 2014 and that he is in advanced talks with the team about a full-time race seat.

“I think the most likely option is Caterham, back to Caterham next year,” he said. “Nothing has been signed, but we are quite far up the road with negotiations.

“Hopefully things get finalized soon but you never know in Formula One so it’s better not to talk about it too much until things have been signed but that has been the original plan and the Lotus thing doesn’t change it too much.”

Therefore, it is likely that we will see the likeable Finn in a full-time seat next season, and this could leave Charles Pic without a place in Formula One after he admitted earlier this week that he is not sure about his future.

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.