Stewart: There’s “a lot of potential” for Danica Patrick

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Three-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart knows that Danica Patrick still has a while to go before she can perform consistently in Cup. But he also feels that Patrick has a good future ahead of her in America’s most popular form of racing.

“I see room for improvement, but I see a lot of potential,” he said to the Associated Press’ Jenna Fryer. “I think she realizes to a certain degree she took a big bite doing this as early as she did, and I think everybody’s judging of her, grading of her – I think you have to look at how much time she’s really had in a stock car.

“The time she’s been in a stock car, she’s done a pretty good job. I value it for what it is, not necessarily the result at the end of the day.”

Patrick had a tough rookie season in 2013, posting just one Top-10 finish at the season-opening Daytona 500 back in February. Prior to this year, Patrick had only logged 10 Cup starts in 2012 to go along with her then full-time duties in the Nationwide Series.

According to Stewart, Patrick is still figuring out how to get the most out of her car at the start of races but usually picks up the pace after her Stewart-Haas Racing team makes adjustments.

In her own comments to Fryer, Patrick agrees.

“When you need to get to the very limit of the car, especially when things are challenging, is when it shows up,” she said. “Like first laps of practice, or qualifying, restarts, start of a green flag run – all the things when you are testing the limit and having to be confident and know the limits.

“I don’t know them yet, and I’m not confident. When the car is right, it’s all good, I will gain spots. There is a big contrast in those moments.”

However, you’d think that there will be at least some improvement on Patrick’s part in 2014 now that she’s gotten a year of experience with the Cup machines. She’s still in a good spot with the resources of SHR and the veteran support of Stewart and now, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch.

Perhaps we expected a bit more out of Patrick this past year, but we also have to remember that this was – and still is – a multi-year process. Expectations will increase in her sophomore season, but for both the team and for its observers, they need to be managed ones.

Ferrari, Mercedes launch 2018 F1 cars

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The title combatants from the 2017 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season both launched their 2018 challengers earlier on Thursday, with Scuderia Ferrari revealing the SF71H and Mercedes AMG Petronas revealing the W09.

For Ferrari, the SF71H represents an evolution of last year’s SF70H, which helped produce Ferrari’s best season in several years.

They presented a strong challenge to Mercedes for the championship, even leading the way at various points, with Sebastian Vettel recording five wins along the way. But, mechanical failures and crashes hampered their efforts late in the season, and they settled for second in the driver’s championship (with Vettel) and the constructor’s championship.

Entering 2018, the team is emphasizing the importance of building momentum with every race to ultimately secure their first constructor’s crown since 2008 and their first driver’s crown since 2007.

“There are no challenges actually. There are no challenges in the plural. There is just one challenge, which is the final challenge,” asserted team principal Maurizio Arrivabene. So that’s work that you build and you don’t build that work in one or two races. We’ve seen over the last few years, in the last championships, that you work race by race, and you always try to do the best you can.”

Technical director Mattia Binotto detailed some of the updates on the 2018 car, such as an new power unit and new suspension designs in anticipation of new tire constructions.

“We worked a lot on the power unit, we worked on its reliability and performance. We worked on the packaging, on suspensions in the rear axle because there will be new tires the following season, so we also tried to design the car to accommodate the new tires,” he explained.

Binotto added, “In regards to aerodynamics, we maintained our concept of having the inlets on the radiators, and everybody’s copying that, but we tried to make an additional step forward and what we showed today is not the same element of last year, but it is something more developed.”

Mercedes, meanwhile, will look to take it’s fifth consecutive driver’s and constructor’s championships with the W09. The team even took the car to the track for its launch, conducting a filming day at Silverstone Circuit.

“It is always a very exciting time because what has been designed is coming together and coming alive,”  team principal Toto Wolff said during the launch.

Despite facing challenges with last year’s car, the W08, the team elected to follow a similar design concept with the aerodynamics to improve on the car’s strengths while simultaneously addressing its weak points.

“We like some of the character traits from our diva,” Wolf quipped. “The W08 was the fastest car on the grid, scoring the highest number of pole positions and winning the most races last year. So we were careful not to lose the car’s many strengths just to overcome the difficulties.”

Both Ferrari and Mercedes are expected to slug it out again for the 2018 driver’s and constructor’s championships.

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