Ricciardo in good spirits despite grid penalty

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Daniel Ricciardo is pleased with his performance in qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix today despite knowing that he will drop 10 places on the grid due to a penalty from the last race, and therefore start in 13th place.

A mistake by the Red Bull mechanics in the pits in Malaysia meant that Ricciardo left his box with his front left tire loose on his car. Following a number of incidents over the past few years involving errant wheels, the FIA has clamped down on such errors, and slapped the team with a 10 place grid penalty for Ricciardo, who endured a luckless weekend at Sepang.

After qualifying in third place today though, he has proven that he has the pace to fight at the front and was in good spirits on Saturday night.

“Today was nice, tomorrow will be less nice with the ten place penalty, but I was really happy with qualifying,” he explained. “I think through all the runs and on both tires I was happy with my performance.

“We may have saved one set of tyres compared to the others, so that’s good, hopefully I’m going to need it tomorrow for coming through the pack. Hopefully it will help us.”

For the second time in three races, Ricciardo outqualified illustrious teammate Sebastian Vettel as the German driver languished down in 11th place on Saturday evening. Following the penalty, Vettel will gain a place and start 10th on the grid tomorrow.

“I did the best I could today,” Ricciardo said. “So for that I’m pleased. I think Seb and I will both be charging hard tomorrow and will aim to put on a good race.”

After suffering from such poor luck so far this season, Ricciardo will be hoping to have a trouble-free race in Bahrain tomorrow and score his first points of the season.

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.