Lewis Hamilton has heaped praise upon the Mercedes team after securing his second consecutive pole position in Malaysia after edging out defending world champion Sebastian Vettel during qualifying on Saturday afternoon.
Conditions throughout qualifying were incredibly difficult for the drivers after a monsoon storm hit the circuit just before qualifying was due to get underway. As a result, the start had to be delayed by 50 minutes, but once the on-track action got underway, Hamilton and Mercedes were dominant in every session.
In Q3, Hamilton managed to post an early lap time that was good enough for pole position after more rain fell and denied Vettel the chance of claiming pole position. Although he believes that he could have gone faster, the pole-sitter is pleased to have done so well given the difficult conditions.
“I’m really happy with our result today,” Hamilton said. “It was a very close session and I’m relieved to come away with pole position as it was pretty tense towards the end. The lap was far from being my optimum: I should have been able to eke out a little more time but thankfully it wasn’t needed.”
The wet weather caught out a number of drivers, including rookie Marcus Ericsson who crashed heavily at the end of Q1. However, Hamilton was delighted to have scored his 33rd career pole position, and praised his team for their hard work across the course of the weekend.
“Conditions were incredibly difficult and it would have been so easy to get it wrong today,” he said. “At times towards the end it was almost impossible to see if anyone was behind me. The team have done a great job once again, we have a great car, and we now have to convert this performance tomorrow.”
Mercedes has dominated proceedings in Malaysia so far this weekend, with one of its cars finishing fastest in every session that has taken place at Sepang International Circuit this weekend. With Nico Rosberg in third place, the team will be hoping to take control of the constructors’ championship with a strong double-score this weekend.
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.