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Pagenaud, Penske top third practice in Toronto

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Team Penske continued its strong form in Toronto, with Simon Pagenaud topping third practice for Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto (3:00 p.m. ET, CNBC). Pagenaud, who led second practice on Friday afternoon, had a fast lap of 59.7864 seconds, bettering teammate Helio Castroneves by just under four hundredths of a second.

“(The) track changed quite a bit,” Pagenaud said of conditions on Saturday morning in an interview with Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network. “We’ll see how the red tires go and how we manage. We might have potential understeer. This track is so much fun! The last section is something to drive here.”

Josef Newgarden and Will Power finished third and fourth to make it an all Team Penske top four, while Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay was the fastest Honda runner in fifth.

The session saw a quick red flag when Hunter-Reay’s  teammate Takuma Sato went into the runoff in Turn 3. He didn’t suffer any wall contact, but his car did stall and needed to be refired, necessitating the brief stoppage. Will Power also had a quick off of his own, this one in Turn 8 early in the session, but he quickly rejoined the fray.

Elsewhere, Ed Carpenter Racing’s JR Hildebrand saw his session come to an early end after slight wall contact in Turn 10 damaged the front suspension. He returned to the pits under his own power, but the damage was too severe to go back out. However, he should be ready for qualifying this afternoon.

Times are below. Note: qualifying begins at 2:15 p.m. ET, but will air on NBCSN at 6:30 p.m. ET.

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F1 2017 driver review: Romain Grosjean

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Romain Grosjean

Team: Haas
Car No.: 8
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P6 (Austria)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 28
Championship Position: 13th

After leading Haas’ charge through its debut Formula 1 season in 2016, Romain Grosjean once again stepped up as team leader for the American team through its sophomore campaign despite scoring one point fewer.

Haas did not expect any major step in performance heading into 2017, having dealt with building all-new cars for two different sets of regulations, but the team was able to match its season one points total by the halfway mark this time around.

The big boost was the addition of a second points scoring driver – Kevin Magnussen – to partner Grosjean. Grosjean looked increasingly comfortable at Haas even if the car often presented problems, particularly under braking.

Radio rants were frequent, with Grosjean unable to drive around the issues as Magnussen did. But he was nevertheless able to finish the year as Haas’ top scorer, with his highlight moment being a perfect run to sixth in Austria.

Greater consistency was evident from both Grosjean and Haas through 2017, yet there were still swings in form that need to be ironed out in the future. The team was unable to capitalize on Renault and Toro Rosso’s late season difficulties that could have seen it jump to sixth in the constructors’ championship.

Grosjean once again proved himself to be a very competent and talented racer through 2017, but needs a little more panache – perhaps down to the car more than anything – if he is to put himself in the frame for a top-line drive in the future.

Haas continues to offer a good platform, though, and its third season should be its best yet thanks to the stability in the regulations. It will be a real chance for Grosjean to show what he can do.

Season High: A perfect run to sixth in Austria, leading the midfield cars.

Season Low: Crashing early with Ocon in Brazil, hurting Haas’ constructors’ hopes.