First blood to Hamilton in Spanish GP practice

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Lewis Hamilton has finished fastest in the first practice session for this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix ahead of Jenson Button and Daniel Ricciardo.

The Mercedes driver posted a fastest time of 1:27.023 to claim top spot, after venturing out for a late run once the track had evolved and become quicker.

Practice took place under perfect blue skies on Friday morning in Spain, giving the teams the best conditions in which to test the new parts on their cars.

However, it turned out to be a troublesome session for a number of drivers who encountered problems, including Sebastian Vettel and Sergio Perez. Vettel’s car stopped out on track during the first 30 minutes of the session, thus curtailing his running and leaving the team with a few questions to answer. Perez’s incident was far more bizarre as his left wing mirror broke loose.

In the sister Red Bull, Daniel Ricciardo ran well to finish in third place behind Hamilton and Button, whilst Nico Rosberg could only finish fifth because of a problem on his car that forced him to sit on the sidelines.

Reserve driver Giedo van der Garde stepped into the Sauber as part of his development programme, replacing Esteban Gutierrez. The Dutchman suffered a scary brake failure on his C33 when heading into the first corner, and was very fortunate not to collide into the wall at high speed.

Home favorite Fernando Alonso struggled to get to grips with the updates on his Ferrari, wrestling with the car throughout the practice sessions. He still rallied to finish fourth ahead of Rosberg and Kimi Raikkonen.

Once again, the advantage appears to lie with Mercedes this weekend, and Hamilton will be hoping to carry this pace throughout the weekend as he goes in search of a fourth straight victory.

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.