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IndyCar 2017 driver review: Will Power

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. Fifth-placed Will Power had an up-and-down year with three wins, his usual outstanding pace, but too much inconsistency to add a second title to his 2014 crown.

Will Power, No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet

  • 2016: 2nd Place, 4 Wins, 2 Poles, 7 Podiums, 8 Top-5, 11 Top-10, 139 Laps Led, 5.7 Avg. Start, 7.9 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 5th Place, 3 Wins, 6 Poles, 7 Podiums, 9 Top-5, 10 Top-10, 443 Laps Led, 4.4 Avg. Start, 9.2 Avg. Finish

Will Power went through a rather weird, boom-or-bust type 2017 season that featured a lot of the blended elements of Power’s career.

It can now be said Power has matured into one of the series’ best drivers on ovals; he dominated Texas from the front and then rallied at Pocono from a lap down thanks to a fortuitous set of circumstances. He remained an outright speed demon with six poles – three more than anyone else – as IndyCar’s pure fastest driver. He led the most laps in the field with 443, one more than Helio Castroneves. And he also had enough poor results to doom his title campaign, with five finishes of 18th or worse. Combined, the top four drivers in points had only four (Josef Newgarden two, Scott Dixon one, Castroneves one, Simon Pagenaud zero).

The poor results counterbalanced his good ones, as besides the wins, Power was a regular podium or top-five finisher in the races he did make it home with no issues. That just happened too infrequently throughout the course of his campaign, and finishing 19th, 13th and 14th out of the gate with mechanical gremlins at St. Petersburg, contact from Charlie Kimball in Long Beach and a gut-wrenching puncture in Barber left him 14th in the standings, 67 points behind then-leader Sebastien Bourdais, after just three races. The Barber loss was the most galling as it cost a sure win. Power ended the year 70 points behind eventual champion Josef Newgarden, and there was no heroic comeback to close the gap down as there was last year.

Alas, even more laid back than normal, Power was particularly calm throughout the year; he never seemed to get too high or low depending on the weekend. He was typically frustrated with himself when things didn’t go right, but more relieved or chilled than exuberant on the days when they did. Pocono saw him almost in shock when he won, as he may have wondered how exactly he and the No. 12 team pulled it off.

It took a bit of time for Power to mesh with new strategist Jon “Myron” Bouslog, who’d replaced Tim Cindric this year on the box. The two did mesh though as the year progressed, Bouslog having been the architect of the winning Pocono strategy, to ensure Power remained a force at this level. Weirdly though, he never was higher than fourth in points at any stage this season, and he hasn’t led the championship at any point since winning his first and thus far only title in 2014.

F1 Preview: 2018 Australian Grand Prix

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Save for two occasions, in 2006, and 2010, the Australian Grand Prix has served as the season-opening event for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship since 1996, and this weekend’s event will be the 21st time that the city of Melbourne has kicked off the Formula 1 campaign.

The 2018 season is the fifth one of the current hybrid power unit era, the second season of the current aero regulations, and the second under Liberty Media’s guidance.

Last year saw titans Mercedes AMG Petronas and Scuderia Ferrari duel for supremacy for most of the season before Mercedes distanced Ferrari late in the season to take the constructor’s title and the driver’s title, with Lewis Hamilton, who is now tied with Sebastian Vettel on four world championships apiece.

Four drivers on the grid have Formula 1 world championships to their name: Hamilton, Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, and Fernando Alonso. Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley also has a world championship to his name as a two-time titlist in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

So, what can viewers expect from the 2018 curtain-raiser in Australia? A handful of things to watch are below?

2018 Australian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Does Anyone Have Anything for Mercedes?

Only on one day during pre-season testing did a Mercedes driver lead the way – Lewis Hamilton was fastest on the final day of Week 1 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

However, all indications were that was by design, with the team focusing the majority of the second week, if not the entire second week, on long runs with their W09 EQ Power+ chassis.

Such a decision is an ominous one, in that it indicates the team is very comfortable with the amount of speed in the car and did not see a need, or desire, to show their hand during testing.

With that in mind, the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas may yet again have the best and fastest cars, and the team looks poised to potentially make it five constructor’s and driver’s championships in a row.

Ferrari and Red Bull Look to End Mercedes Reign

The biggest threats to Mercedes are undoubtedly Ferrari and Red Bull, the only other teams to win in 2017.

And both teams displayed a lot of pace during testing, particularly in the “one-lap speed” category. Ricciardo set a lap record around the Catalunya circuit during the second week, only for Vettel to supplant that mark later in the week. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen led the way during the final day of testing.

It is unknown how that pace will translate over the course of a race distance. Mercedes appeared to have an edge on both Ferrari and Red Bull over long runs and race simulations, but there is also a theory that neither Ferrari nor Red Bull had their true long-run form on display.

Still, if a team is going to knock off Mercedes, it will likely be either Ferrari or Red Bull.

McLaren on the Rebound?

Put simply, the previous three seasons for McLaren F1 Team were a bit of a disaster. Their partnership with Honda yielded point totals of 27 (2015), 76 (2016), and 30 (2017) in a three-year venture that was defined by poor reliability and underwhelming power.

The relationship hit a boiling point last year and both entities parted ways ahead of the 2018 season, with McLaren signing a new power unit deal with Renault.

Testing went better than in previous years, though the team continued to battle reliability problems. However, all issues appeared to be minor, needling issues rather than more significant, foundational problems, as the other Renault teams (Red Bull and Renault Sport F1 Team) had solid runs with few reliability issues.

The car does appear to have speed in it, so if the reliability problems are behind them, McLaren could be in for a rebound season.

Stuck in the Midfield Again

Formula 1’s battle amongst the midfield is set to be as fierce as ever as a host of a several teams have a chance at being “best of the rest.”

Sahara Force India has been the frontrunner from the the midfield teams each of the last two years, finishing fourth in the constructor’s title in both 2016 and 2017, though if the steady conflict between drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez continues through 2018, it could hamper their efforts significantly.

Renault Sport F1 Team and Haas F1 Team look to improve on their 2017 form, while Toro Rosso is in a new partnership with Honda power units…and has experienced a surprisingly smooth pre-season as Honda’s 2018 platform looks significantly better, with the team enjoying a solid run of testing with few, if any, reliability problems.

Williams Martini Racing and Alfa Romeo Sauber appear to be at the back of the pack entering the season, but both could battle for points finishes if those ahead of them falter.