St. Pete IndyCar: Grosjean grabs pole in crash-filled qualifying
BY David Malsher-Lopez | Motorsports.com
Romain Grosjean delivered a brilliant final qualifying lap to defeat Andretti Autosport team-mate Colton Herta and earn the second pole position of his career as several stars' days went awry.
The Firestone Fast Six quickly turned into the 'non-crashing four', with Grosjean coming out on top over Herta, Pato O'Ward and Marcus Ericsson.
What happened in Q3
Kyle Kirkwood started the session at a disadvantage, having used two sets of fresh alternate Firestones to get out of Q1, so had no fresh alternates for the final segment of qualifying. That issue seemed small when he slid straight on at the final turn, and missed the tire barrier to crunch hard into the concrete. He drove the wreckage back to pitlane.
Once the action resumed, McLaughlin broke a right-rear toelink on the Turn 10 wall, which sent him into a pirouette through the chicane, causing another red flag. Like Kirkwood, he would have his time deleted. They will start fifth and sixth respectively.
Despite also suffering the same issue as Kirkwood in terms of having no fresh alternates, Ericsson briefly took top spot, but was soon deposed by O’Ward’s Arrow McLaren and Herta of Andretti Autosport. Yet Grosjeandelivered a stunning final sector to beat Herta’s benchmark by 0.4155sec and claim his first pole position in an Andretti car.
O’Ward was just 0.0476sec behind Herta and 0.42sec ahead of Ericsson.
What happened in Q2
Kirkwood got a drive-through penalty for causing a local yellow after a trip down the Turn 4 escape road, but he was on used alternates so he was due to pit anyway.
After everyone’s first runs, Alexander Rossi sat top with a 1m00.0040sec, with Scott McLaughlin second but a full 0.28sec behind, chased by Scott Dixon, Will Power and Colton Herta.
Everyone ducked in for fresh alternate ‘greens’, and Felix Rosenqvistdelivered another sub one-minute effort, a 59.7971s lap which was then shaded by Kyle Kirkwood’s 59.6357s. Kirkwood’s teammate Romain Grosjean came in just 0.09sec behind, while Colton Herta went a shade faster with a 59.5442 to complete an Andretti 1-2-3.
O’Ward, Marcus Ericsson and McLaughlin completed the top six, but their teammates were left disappointed, with Palou and Dixon set to start seventh and ninth for Ganassi, Rosenqvist and Rossi eighth and 12th for Arrow McLaren, and nine-time St. Pete polesitter Power only 10th, just ahead of Lundgaard of RLL.
What happened in Q1 Group 2
Ed Carpenter Racing’s Conor Daly was one of the few in this 14-car group to come out immediately on alternate tires so it was no surprise to see him top by over a second initially, with fellow alternate runners Devlin De Francesco and Callum Ilott also shining on the softer rubber to depose him. DeFrancesco, delivered a 1m00.3339 to go top.
They were then split by primary-tired Romain Grosjean of Andretti Autosport, before the big hitters pitted for the green alternates.
Grosjean threw in a 59.8790sec, only to be shaded by his teammate Colton Herta by 0.05sec, but then both were edged by just 0.0007sec! – to claim top spot. Behind Herta and Grosjean was Alex Palou in another Ganassi entry and Alexander Rossi, who meant all three Arrow McLarens transferred to Q2.
Those knocked out included two-time St. Pete winner Josef Newgardendue to lack of a truly clear lap, and Rinus VeeKay of Ed Carpenter Racing, who was inadvertently held up on a flyer by Palou.
What happened in Q1 Group 1
Many drivers went out straight away on alternate tires, Simon Pagenaud of Meyer Shank Racing ducking down into the 1m00s zone on his banker lap, but he was swiftly toppled by Kyle Kirkwood of Andretti Autosport on 1m00.5185s and the Arrow McLarens of Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist. Rookie Marcus Armstrong showed well to jump into fourth.
Defending race-winner Scott McLaughlin sat sixth, after the first run.
On the second runs, Rosenqvist ducked under the one-minute barrier with 59.9396 ahead of his team-mate O’Ward, with McLaughlin jumping his Penske into third ahead of Armstrong’s Ganassi machine with Helio Castroneves of Meyer Shank in fifth ahead of Christian Lundgaard.
Then Pagenaud slid into the tires on his final effort, IndyCar’s new rules allowing the remaining runners one out-lap and a flyer. On Firestone’s new green sidewalled tires, that was enough to see Lundgaard of Rahal Letterman Lanigan and Kirkwood to jump into second and third and Marcus Ericsson to bump out team-mate Armstrong, just behind McLaughlin.
Although he didn’t make it through, Argentine touring car ace did a commendable job in his first ever open-wheel qualifying session to wind up less than 1.2sec slower than Rosenqvist’s benchmark.