IndyCar followers have been left so many inquiries to ponder after final weekend’s Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. In no specific order, we surprise if Andretti Autosport had pitted Romain Grosjean a lap earlier in his first stint – earlier than his inexperienced alternate Firestones gave up and misplaced him time – whether or not Workforce Penske’s Scott McLaughlin would have been unable to get in entrance of the Frenchman for the center stint and due to this fact unable to wrestle for the lead firstly of his remaining stint, ergo Grosjean wins.
We ponder whether Colton Herta, had he hung again from his Andretti Autosport team-mate in cleaner air within the opening stint, may have made his greens last more, misplaced much less time earlier than pitting, after which been capable of sort out Grosjean or choose up the win within the occasion of the Grosjean/McLaughlin conflict.
Equally, had he not been nudged into the wall (inadvertently) by Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon on the opening lap, would Felix Rosenqvist have been in second to take over the lead from Arrow McLaren team-mate Pato O’Ward when the latter’s Chevy-powered machine had a fast burp 4 laps from the top? And, after all, it’s anybody’s guess whether or not O’Ward, with out his “plenum occasion”, may have held off eventual winner Marcus Ericsson all the way in which to the chequered flag.
The hypothesis above is irrelevant when you see the outcomes sheet: McLaughlin and Grosjean did conflict, Herta and Rosenqvist weren’t round to choose up the items, O’Ward’s engine did hesitate, Ericsson did win.
So now the largest query is, had been the St. Pete performances a real gauge of the relative deserves of Ganassi, Andretti, McLaren and Penske on all avenue programs within the season forward? Relies upon who you ask…
Chris Simmons, Chip Ganassi Racing’s director of efficiency
Ganassi’s Simmons feels the crew has taken a step ahead within the tight IndyCar pack
Photograph by: IndyCar Collection
Simmons noticed Ericsson switch to the Quick Six, Alex Palou and Dixon line up seventh and ninth, and rookie Marcus Armstrong seize 13th. Might they’ve performed higher?
“Scott began two positions additional again than final 12 months at St. Pete, however this 12 months we had been three tenths nearer to transferring out of Q2,” observes Simmons. “It’s super-tight for that cut-off place. We solely missed the highest six by zero.04s and zero.07s would have put us P3. Sadly, we didn’t put the perfect lap collectively – though clearly many of the drivers may say one thing like that.”
Final 12 months at this observe, Ganassi appeared mediocre in observe however acquired higher and higher with each session, in order that Palou completed a really shut second on race day. This 12 months, the crew was in control from the very first session, however Simmons insists this was not as a result of the squad targeted on avenue course efficiency within the low season.
“Our avenue course performances final 12 months had been sturdy [Dixon won Toronto and Nashville, Palou was on the podium at St. Pete and Long Beach, and Dixon was also third in Detroit],” he says. “It’s qualifying that was our prime precedence within the low season, for avenue and street programs. We did a protracted examination of the place we had been shedding out, made some adjustments to our set-ups to make them much less knife-edge and coached the drivers on how they might additionally assist themselves as nicely.
“We nonetheless have work to do. However, on race tempo, I feel we appeared sturdy in contrast with the opposition all weekend” Chris Simmons
“And I feel that was mirrored in St. Pete. Our race tempo was nonetheless there however qualifying tempo was a bit higher. Clearly we’d have appreciated to have had all 4 automobiles within the Quick Six however the guys had been all fairly proud of their automobiles, and the outcomes had been extra a mirrored image on struggling to seek out the last word lap. And getting all 4 within the prime six is about as a lot all the way down to luck as talent, today, given the visitors scenario.”
That stated, Simmons is sincere sufficient to confess that he doubts the Ganassi automobiles may have ruined the Andretti Autosport front-row lockout.
“If we’d put our greatest laps collectively for all automobiles, I feel we’d have been within the hunt,” he says, “however I’m unsure we might have matched the lap that Grosjean threw down there in qualifying. We nonetheless have work to do. However, on race tempo, I feel we appeared sturdy in contrast with the opposition all weekend.”
Whereas Simmons thinks the Ganassi automobiles had been quicker than the McLaren machines in race trim, he’s not going to emphatically say that Ericsson would have made the go on O’Ward.
“I suppose we had been quicker, yeah,” he says. “Pato didn’t look notably fast within the first stint of the race, and was holding everybody up from fourth on again. However whether or not Marcus may have made a transfer on him with all of the marbles that had been on the within, I don’t know. When Scott tried to go Marcus on that final restart, he had wheelspin in fourth gear from all of the marbles offline. I might have appreciated to see IndyCar use one or two of the longer yellows to scrub the observe; that will have helped the racing, as a result of with that many automobiles on the market, the marble downside is just going to worsen.”
Gavin Ward, Arrow McLaren racing director
Ward says Arrow McLaren actually focused avenue course enchancment
Photograph by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images
Ward says avenue course efficiency was the place McLaren most wanted to up its tempo for 2023, so he was gratified with the progress on present final weekend.
“That was the weakest a part of our recreation in 2022,” says Ward, “and we had been happy with the 12 months on 12 months features at St. Pete. Clearly, Andretti has nonetheless acquired one thing on the sphere, however St. Pete is a bit of little bit of an outlier when it comes to avenue programs due to the observe floor. I might say it’s too quickly to inform how issues would possibly stack up on the different avenue races. Detroit is a brand new format; Lengthy Seaside, Toronto and Nashville we all know and hopefully loads of work we’ve performed will switch to these. Really, I hope loads of work we’ve performed may also be relevant to the street programs, too.”
O’Ward outqualified all three Workforce Penske automobiles in St. Petersburg, and Rosenqvist began forward of two. When one considers how superior Roger’s crew checked out St. Pete final 12 months, that’s fairly the turnaround for the Zak Brown band. However Ward won’t go thus far to recommend his crew is now forward of Penske on avenue programs.
“That’s a bit of difficult to say,” he feedback, “as a result of McLaughlin was competing for the win. On one-lap tempo, yeah, I feel we had been forward: when it comes to the race, I’m rather less assured. Did we see anybody really flat out? It’s IndyCar, it’s so tight; the margin between trying good and searching unhealthy could be very slender.”
Ward confirms that O’Ward intentionally hung again from Grosjean and Herta within the opening stint to flee their soiled air and due to this fact shield his alternate tyres, whereas doing simply sufficient to remain forward of Ericsson, Palou, Kyle Kirkwood, and so on.
“That was our play going into the race,” says Ward. “I used to be super-impressed with Pato’s maturity and self-discipline the complete weekend. We knew making the alternates final was key for pulling off a two-stopper – you lose round 28s in pitlane – and we went into the race interested by one of the simplest ways to attain a prime three or prime 4, as a result of we wish to be constantly top-five automobiles each week. Our goal is to achieve the season finale with all three automobiles nonetheless in rivalry for the title, and that’s all about consistency.”
Except for O’Ward’s bitter tablet, Rosenqvist was bounced into the wall on the opening lap of the race, taking him out of rivalry, whereas Alexander Rossi drove a sensible race with a automobile that misplaced downforce from a broken diffuser after being struck on lap one.
“Alex acquired probably the most out of what he had,” Ward states, “and Felix was proper there with Pato when it comes to tempo. It may have been him who took over the lead when Pato had his situation…
“However we’ve positively made an enormous step since final 12 months. Will that switch to Lengthy Seaside? I don’t know. The place are we in relation to the opposite groups? I don’t know. However there’s sufficient distinction between these tracks that St. Pete isn’t essentially a type information for different avenue races, and there’s sufficient tightness within the area that you simply nonetheless need to nail completely every part otherwise you’re going to overlook out.
“The nice factor is that we imagine there’s extra to return.”
Rob Edwards, Andretti Autosport COO
Edwards was impressed by the way in which Andretti’s drivers had been working collectively
Photograph by: Gavin Baker / Motorsport Images
There’s a wide range of methods to sum up the miserable ‘what may need been’ story at Andretti however it’s not all unhealthy: the automobiles clearly had enormous tempo. That certainly gained’t be the final time we see Grosjean, Herta and Kirkwood all making it by means of to the Quick Six in qualifying.
“We’ve all been on this enterprise lengthy sufficient to grasp it ebbs and flows,” says Edwards. “And also you’re proper, there are loads of positives to nonetheless take from final weekend.
“No matter reset buttons had been hit over the low season, Romain has been nice – he’s been every part we want him to be. I stated to somebody on the weekend that it’s like our 4 drivers went to Vegas over the winter and had a bonding train to all get on the identical web page.
“The dysfunction at Mid-Ohio final 12 months was nicely documented, however Romain, Colton, Kyle and Devlin [DeFrancesco] have all acquired the message for 2023 – they should work collectively – and Romain has been a extremely huge a part of that over the previous few months. In order a lot as I feel he deserved the St. Pete win as a result of he drove very well, I feel he additionally deserved a reward for the work he’s been doing within the low season that has contributed to the crew as a complete.”
“As a lot because the outcomes had been disappointing, one good race or one unhealthy race doesn’t outline the season. I hope we are able to take away some positives from St. Pete” Rob Edwards
It wasn’t solely the drivers hitting the reset button at Andretti, as Edwards explains: “From our perspective, we needed to take a protracted onerous have a look at ourselves, reprioritise some areas, appropriate some issues that we’d found had been not so good as we hoped they’d be in 2022, and go away alone the issues that had been working nicely. After which hope that we had been addressing the best issues.
“Automobile-wise, there have been particular steps, and that has a constructive impact on different areas. You probably have the velocity, it opens up two or three methods and make you appear to be a hero. There have been one or two barely late calls, there have been some facets of tyre administration that might have been dealt with higher. However we now have improved communication paths so I feel you’ll see our methods and techniques enhance and we’ll get sharper at decision-making ‘within the second’.”
Had he not wanted two units of alternates to get by means of to the Quick Six, after which crashed, Kirkwood may need made it an Andretti 1-2-Three on the grid. So has Michael Andretti’s squad regained no matter it misplaced in 2022 and grow to be the road course masters as soon as extra?
“It’s too early to say,” says Edwards. “Typically you’re not fairly pretty much as good because it seems, and typically you’re higher than you seem. Actually the one information level we now have, St. Petersburg, makes us really feel we’ve remedied a few of the issues that weren’t working final 12 months, and gone again the way in which they had been. However it is going to most likely take the subsequent three or 4 races to determine the place we stack up general. There are such a lot of sturdy groups and variables on any given day.
“As a lot because the outcomes had been disappointing, one good race or one unhealthy race doesn’t outline the season. I hope we are able to take away some positives from St. Pete, be sensible about what we do and purpose to have a number of automobiles in rivalry for the championship. These are the expectations from Michael and the crew’s companions.”
Will Energy, Workforce Penske driver and defending IndyCar champion
Energy reckons a podium was potential with out the penalty for clashing with Herta
Photograph by: Phillip Abbott / Motorsport Images
How good was Workforce Penske? That’s presumably the toughest query to reply. What we are able to say is that the squad didn’t appear to be the crew that at St. Pete final 12 months began 1-2 and completed 1-Three.
McLaughlin most likely solely led the center stint resulting from a tactical misstep from Andretti Autosport, which is what gave him an opportunity to additionally emerge in entrance for the beginning of the ultimate stint, resulting in the notorious conflict. It was notable that even firstly of the center stint when operating on recent alternates, he couldn’t shake off Grosjean on the tougher primaries.
However McLaughlin was swift in qualifying and with out his wall-brush that bent a toelink, and brought about a spin, he may need outpaced O’Ward for third on the grid. Underwhelming qualifying for Energy (10th, an excessive amount of understeer) and Josef Newgarden (14th, an excessive amount of visitors) outlined their races.
Energy spent the primary stint in ninth, proper behind fellow major customers McLaughlin and Dixon and was a official sixth within the second stint however he was adjudged to be extra at fault within the conflict that despatched Herta into the tyre wall, and so was made to restart in the back of the pack, in 15th. After the ultimate yellow attributable to the McLaughlin/Grosjean conflict, he was as much as 12th, and elected to seize a second set of alternates. He minimize by means of the pack to assert seventh on the flag.
“I discovered the greens fairly good even within the center stint,” he says. “With the observe totally rubbered in, it was simple to make them final, and so we ended up fast within the third stint. Our automobile was quick in race trim.”
“Yeah, qualifying was a little bit of a unique story,” Energy continues. “The automobile’s dealing with was simply pretty much as good this 12 months as final 12 months, however the lap occasions weren’t there in comparison with our rivals. We had a reasonably good steadiness, so it was onerous to pin down what we had been lacking. We had a bit an excessive amount of understeer – that was one factor I may have helped with, by fixing my line all the way down to the final nook. It’s these little particulars that price you when the sphere’s very, very aggressive like this.”
With out the penalty for the conflict with Herta, Energy stated he was destined for “third or fourth – simply forward or simply behind Dixon”, however added, “Given the scenario with the penalty, dropping to the again, I used to be fairly proud of seventh. That wasn’t unhealthy.”
However the place does he reckon Penske is in contrast with the others? “In case you have a look at the weekend general, Andretti was the strongest – they had been fast and their automobiles appeared to be dealing with very well,” says Energy. “I feel we had been actually good within the race, however it’s onerous to inform how we stacked up in contrast with McLaren and Ganassi as a result of, to make a two-stopper work, there weren’t many occasions once we had been flat out and on the identical technique as folks round us.
“However at a push, I’d say solely the Andretti automobiles had been higher than Penske over the weekend; I feel our automobiles had been at the very least a match for McLaren and Ganassi. And who is aware of if it is going to be the identical in Lengthy Seaside? Andretti’s been sturdy there the previous few years, however I feel we’re shut sufficient to place them beneath strain.”
Energy says it is nonetheless onerous to know the true IndyCar pecking order
Photograph by: Phillip Abbott / Motorsport Images