German GP Paddock Notebook – Sunday

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And so ends another grand prix weekend. Just like that, we’re already halfway through the 2014 Formula 1 season, and we’re still no closer to knowing who will be crowned world champion at the end of the season.

Today, Nico Rosberg capped off a near-perfect two week period by winning his home grand prix in Germany, but the real star of the race was Lewis Hamilton. His charge from 20th to third was a joy to watch, but going by his reaction on the podium and in the post-race press conference, you would have been forgiven for thinking he’d crashed out. Clearly, losing more ground to Nico has perturbed him.

Here’s the final round-up from the paddock at the Hockenheimring.

RACE REPORT

  • Nico Rosberg was the man to clinch victory in the German Grand Prix today, but it was a very entertaining and interesting race away from the front. Bottas, Hamilton, Alonso, Ricciardo and Vettel all gave us some great action on track.

NEWS FROM THE PADDOCK

THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK

It’s quite hard to believe that we’re now closer to the end of the season than we are to the beginning. Ten races down, nine to go, and just 250 points left on offer (and yes, that does include Abu Double – I mean, Abu Dhabi).

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg are set to continuing tussling at the top of the standings until the end of the year, and the internal battle at Mercedes is certainly an interesting one. Both drivers have the bit between their teeth, but Rosberg has the slender points advantage. Lewis called his crash in Q1 a “gift” for Nico, and maybe he was right; maybe it did gift him the win.

However, Lewis shouldn’t been disheartened by his performance today. He was in supreme form, and it is probably one of his best ever drives. His overtaking moves reeked of desperation – ‘you will move or we will crash’ – but it was still mightily impressive. Damage well limited.

Mercedes’ strategy in the final stages of the race with Lewis was interesting. The decision to go option-option and pit three times instead of going with one prime third stint at the end was a surprise, but it did have the effect of piling the pressure on the leaders. Come the end of the race though, he didn’t have enough life left in the Pirellis; Bottas had done 40 laps on his tires, and was fine. Anticipating the safety car in that fashion – which Lewis of course lamented not doing in Monaco – backfired.

But then again, it should have been a safety car. Had it come out, Lewis could have won the race; it would have essentially been a 15 lap race to the flag against Nico. Adrian Sutil’s Sauber was in a dangerous position, and seeing the marshals running across the track to recover it was bizarre. Of course, the cynics will cry conspiracy and note that a German driver was leading the German GP at the time. (For the record, the driver steward was Danish this weekend).

We were also treated to another fine Red Bull versus Alonso battle. Fernando went into battle with both Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo; it was a masterclass of wheel-to-wheel racing. Sheer joy for the F1 fan.

And to finish, a big well done to Valtteri Bottas for another fine performance. There is no doubt that we’re watching a future grand prix winner, if not a future world champion.

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.