van der Garde relishing practice run-out in Spain

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Giedo van der Garde is looking forward to his third practice session of the season for Sauber as his reserve driver duties continue ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix.

The Dutchman sought refuge at Sauber after being dropped by Caterham at the end of last season, and has already stated that he wants a full-time drive with the Swiss team next season. As reserve driver, he deputized for one of the full-time race drivers in practice in both Bahrain and China, and he will once again replace Esteban Gutierrez for FP1 in Spain next weekend.

“It is nice to come back to Europe and especially to Barcelona,” van der Garde explained. “The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is a track that I like a lot. We will have some updates and our C33 will weigh less, so it will be interesting to see how the car behaves.

“I am positive, and I am keen to get back behind the wheel. After FP1 on Friday I will have a full day of testing on Tuesday, so I am looking forward to that.”

As mentioned, van der Garde will also take part in the post-race test at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on the Tuesday and Wednesday after the race. He will share testing duties with Gutierrez as the team looks to bounce back from a poor start to the season.

Given how badly both Gutierrez and teammate Adrian Sutil have fared at the beginning of the 2014 season, van der Garde must fancy his chances of stepping up to a full-time drive with the team in the future, be it next season or perhaps earlier.

However, with Simona de Silvestro and Sergey Sirotkin also vying for the two seats on offer in 2015, the management at Sauber has a difficult decision to make for next year.

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.