Pivotal race for Force India at Hockenheim in Constructor’s battle

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It’s not that Force India has been bad the last several races – Nico Hulkenberg’s points-scoring run in every Grand Prix through Silverstone continued and Sergio Perez has had his moments, as well – but the early-season pace the team showed has dipped slightly the last few events.

At Hockenheim, however, the team is bullish on its prospects. The car handles a bit better on the supersoft and soft tires, and Hulkenberg said that should play to the team’s advantage at this weekend’s German Grand Prix.

“Even on tracks where we have been struggling slightly, we have managed to score points – for example, in Silverstone the car balance was not ideal, but we still came away with four points,” Hulkenberg said in the team’s advance release. “I’m feeling more positive about our performance in Germany, especially with the return of the soft and supersoft tires.”

Added Perez, “Hockenheim should suit our car and we should be in a much stronger position. It looks like a track where we can perform well. With the softer tyres and warm temperatures it’s going to be an interesting race.”

Team principal Vijay Mallya said this is a pivotal race for Force India in terms of the Constructor’s Championship. Williams’ 45 points in the last two races have taken it past the fellow Mercedes-powered squad for fourth in the Constructor’s Championship.

Force India is now fifth on 91, and just one point ahead of McLaren on 90. Ferrari on 106 and Williams on 103 are over the century mark in the battle for third.

“Hockenheim is a medium-speed circuit and we have done well on these sorts of tracks this year. It’s also Nico’s home race so I am sure he will have some extra motivation to do well,” Mallya said. “We have scored points in every race, but we need to score with both cars if we want to maintain our position in the championship. It’s expected to be one of the hotter races of the year and that usually works in our favor.”

Hulkenberg finished ninth for Force India at Hockenheim two years ago from fifth on the grid, while Perez took his Sauber from 12th on the grid up to sixth.

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.