Romain Grosjean put in a brilliant final qualifying lap to defeat Andretti Autosport team-mate Colton Herta and clinch the second pole position of his career as several stars’ days went sour.
The Firestone Fast Six quickly turned into a “no crash four”, with Grosjean beating Herta, Pato O’Ward and Marcus Ericsson.
What happened in the third trimester?
Kyle Kirkwood started the session at a disadvantage, having used two fresh alternate Firestones games to get out of Q1, so he had no new substitutes for the final qualifying segment. This problem seemed minor when he slid straight into the final corner and missed the tire barrier to sink hard into the concrete. He brought the wreckage back into the pit lane.
Once the action resumed, McLaughlin broke a right rear link on the wall at Turn 10 which sent him into a pirouette through the chicane, causing another red flag. Like Kirkwood, he would have his time cut off. They will start fifth and sixth respectively.
Although also suffering from the same problem as Kirkwood in terms of a lack of new replacements, Ericsson briefly took the top spot but was soon dropped by O’Ward’s Arrow McLaren and Andretti Autosport’s Herta. Still, Grosjean delivered a stunning final sector to beat Herta’s benchmark by 0.4155s and claim his first pole position in an Andretti car.
O’Ward was just 0.0476s behind Herta and 0.42s ahead of Ericsson.
What happened in the second trimester?
Kirkwood received a penalty for causing a local yellow after a turn 4 escape route trip, but he was on alternatives used so he had to pit anyway.
After everyone’s first runs, Alexander Rossi was in the lead with a 1m00.0040sec, with Scott McLaughlin second but 0.28sec behind, chased by Scott Dixon, Will Power and Colton Herta.
Everyone rushed for new alternate “greens”, and Felix Rosenqvist delivered another sub-minute effort, a 59.7971 round that was later shaded by Kyle Kirkwood’s 59.6357. Kirkwood’s teammate Romain Grosjean was just 0.09 seconds behind, while Colton Herta went a little faster with a 59.5442 to complete a 1-2-3 Andretti.
O’Ward, Marcus Ericsson and McLaughlin rounded out the top six but their teammates were disappointed with Palou and Dixon due to start seventh and ninth for Ganassi, Rosenqvist and Rossi eighth and 12.e for Arrow McLaren and nine-time poleman at St. Pete Power only 10ejust ahead of RLL’s Lundgaard.
What happened in Q1 Group 2
Ed Carpenter Racing’s Conor Daly was one of the few in this group of 14 cars to go out immediately on alternative tyres, so it was no surprise to see him overtake by more than a second at the start, along with his colleagues alternate runners Devlin De Francesco and Callum Ilott also shone on the softer rubber to put it down. DeFrancesco, delivered a 1m00.3339 to go ahead.
They were then separated by primary-weary Romain Grosjean of Andretti Autosport before the heavy hitters battled for green substitutes.
Grosjean threw a 59.8790sec, only to be shadowed by teammate Colton Herta by 0.05sec, but then the two were trailed by just 0.0007sec! – to claim the top spot. Behind Herta and Grosjean were Alex Palou in another entry from Ganassi and Alexander Rossi, which meant all three Arrow McLarens were transferred to Q2.
Among those eliminated were two-time St. Pete winner Josef Newgarden for lack of a truly clear lap, and Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay, who was inadvertently held up on a flyer by Palou.
What happened in Q1 Group 1
Many drivers immediately came out on alternative tyres, with Meyer Shank Racing’s Simon Pagenaud dipping into the 1m00 zone on his bank lap, but he was quickly knocked down by Andretti Autosport’s Kyle Kirkwood in 1m00.5185s and the Arrow McLarens by Pato O’ Ward and Felix Rosenqvist. Rookie Marcus Armstrong showed well to move up to fourth.
Defending winner Scott McLaughlin was sixth after the first run.
On the second runs, Rosenqvist went under the one-minute barrier with 59.9396 ahead of teammate O’Ward, with McLaughlin jumping his Penske in third ahead of Armstrong’s Ganassi machine with Meyer Shank’s Helio Castroneves in fifth ahead of Christian Lundgaard.
Then Pagenaud slid into the tires on his final effort, with new IndyCar rules allowing the remaining riders a lap and a flyer. On Firestone’s new greenwall tires, it was enough to see Lundgaard of Rahal Letterman Lanigan and Kirkwood move into second and third and Marcus Ericsson to knock out teammate Armstrong, just behind McLaughlin.
Although he was unsuccessful, the Argentine touring car ace did a commendable job in his first-ever open-wheel qualifying session to finish less than 1.2 seconds slower than Rosenqvist’s benchmark.