The new aero kits might not of caught the imagination in terms of visual looks, however form has certainly followed function in the hierarchy, with day one of the Grand Prix of St Petersburg showing a major increase in performance.
Chevrolet had the stronger opening session with Team Penske drivers Will Power, Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves, followed by Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing) and Sebastian Bourdais (KV Racing) placing first to fifth in the timesheets at the conclusion of the session. Honda was able to achieve sixth and seventh fastest today with Jack Hawksworth (Foyt) and James Hinchcliffe (Schmidt) respectively.
The opening session was clear of any major issues, with a couple of minor issues occurring during the session, with a stalled car bringing out a short yellow, and a few cars running on into escape areas. However overall today was a very positive start to the Indycar season.
It’s the increased pace which interests me. Power set his fastest lap today at 1:01.4709 with the subsequent four fastest also faster than last years pole time. The 2014 pole lap time was set by Takuma Sato at 1:01.8686.
Now I understand that being faster than the previous aero package was logically going to happen and therefore may not appear that impressive, with the highly improved aero packages. However considering that after practice one in 2014, the fastest lap was in the 1:02s, the improvement is staggering.
However, the real question comes tomorrow in qualifying, when the question is asked, of whether the overall track record can be beaten at the opening round? That record currently sits at 1.00.928, set by Sebastien Bourdais on this configuration back in the Champ car sanctioned 2003 event. I believe a very high chance on reds and in the fast six qualifying exists of us seeing that record broken.
Sadly despite all of positives we can take from today’s opening session, the one disappointment of the day, came with the heavy rainfall, which resulted in practice session two effectively being rained out with teams electing not to go out on track.
A lack of spare parts for teams currently available for the new aero kits in the event of additional crash damage would have been a major factor in the decision, for teams electing not to send drivers out on track. The other factor in the decision likely being that the remainder of the weekend should see clear weather, making the risk greater than the reward for cars out on track.
Still it’s a shame for the impressive friday crowd at the event, though a decision that is understandable. The rain additionally meant that the second Indy lights session saw no action either, although Pirelli World Challenge qualifying did go ahead at the end of the days track activity.
Tomorrow will see the Verizon Indycar Series take to the track, with a third and final practice session, ahead of qualifying. These sessions will have coverage on Indycars Youtube channel.