Force India confirms Smirnoff partnership

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Sahara Force India has a new partner in the form of Smiroff premium vodka. The branding will be seen on the sidepods, rear wing and top of Vijay Mallya’s VJM07 chassis starting at the Spanish Grand Prix weekend, with a new livery featuring a more prominent percentage of black that premiered last race in China.

As an official partner, Smirnoff plans to use the partnership to deliver a powerful anti-drink and drive message.

“It’s fantastic to see Smirnoff join the world of Formula One,” Mallya said in a team release. “It’s an iconic, global brand and we welcome them to the Sahara Force India family.

“As a team we’ve always mixed the highest professionalism on the track with great celebrations away from it and our partnership with Smirnoff reinforces those values. As we continue to make progress on the track, Smirnoff is the ideal brand to help celebrate these moments and open up the sport to new fans.”

Added Matt Bruhn, Smirnoff Global Brand Director, “We love Sahara Force India’s story, as well as its ability to help us communicate about responsibility and top quality performance. This team is shaking up how we perceive racing and giving the establishment a real run for its money.”

No terms or length was revealed in the team release, but it is expected to be a multi-year deal.

Sergio Perez delivered the team its first podium in five years at Bahrain, and Nico Hulkenberg has finished fifth or sixth in each of the four Grands Prix thus far. The team currently ranks third in the Constructor’s Championship with 54 points, only three behind Red Bull in second.

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.