IndyCar| Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg | McLaughlin goes fastest in the final practice session before Qualifying as Palou and Grosjean crash out

Scott McLaughlin showcased his skills on the streets of St. Petersburg as he put down the fastest lap for the second practice session of the Firestone Stone GP, while Romain Grosjean and NTT IndyCar title defender Alex Palou crash out.

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IndyCar| Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg | McLaughlin goes fastest in the final practice session before Qualifying as Palou and Grosjean crash out
Fuente imagen: @Team_Penske

Scott McLaughlin put himself in the frame for pole position in today’s Qualifying session after setting the only sub-one-minute lap time of a wild session that was dominated by incidents.

The 2019 Bathurst 1000 winner managed to keep his nose clean throughout the session whilst reigning champion Alex Palou, and Romain Grosjean ended their sessions by crashing at Turns 9 and 10, giving their mechanics plenty of work before today’s Qualifying session.

The 45-minute session held in sunny and warm conditions would be the last chance that the teams would have at making adjustments to the car’s setup before today’s qualifying session, with track temperatures hitting 82 degrees Fahrenheit.

It would also be the first session where teams could use Firestone’s new alternate red tires; however, the teams elected not to use them until later in the session.

At the green light, all 26 cars except Jimmie Johnson left the pits to begin their installation laps with the field jostling for clear track position.

Grosjean was one of the keenest drivers on the installation laps as the former Haas driver ducked and weaved through several slower cars, narrowly avoiding contact with Takuma Sato and Simon Pagenaud.

Johnson’s session got off to a poor start as he spun on the run down to Turn 1 forcing the seven-time Nascar champion to rallycross over the grass and ruining his set of tyres that were briefly covered in grass.

Rinus Veekay led the field with 10 minutes gone in the session with a time of 1:00.4963, with Alexander Rossi also showcasing some good early speed with the second-fastest time. Pagenaud was third fastest ahead of Will Power and Kyle Kirkwood, an impressive fifth after the opening runs. 

Veekay had a minor scare after clipping the wall at Turn 9, whilst Grosjean went down the escape road at Turn 10, forcing the Frenchman to make a quick spin-turn.

Rossi moved to the front five minutes later with a 1:00.3063, with his Andretti Autosport teammate Colton Herta also improving on his second run.

The red flag was brought out shortly afterwards after Jack Harvey clipped the barrier on the exit of Turn 9, breaking the front left suspension and sending the Brit straight into the wall, ending his session early and earning him a five minute time penalty as a result of him causing a red flag.

After a short stoppage to repair the barrier, the session restarted with the entire field except Harvey taking to the track with over 22 minutes left.

But the green flag period didn’t last long as Grosjean, who was on a hot lap, failed to slow down in time for traffic, causing him to slam into Sato on the run down to Turn 10, damaging both cars and ending the Japanese veteran’s session over after he sustained rear wing and gearbox damage.

Further up the track, Johnson added to his woes with a spin at Turn 8, clipping the barrier and slightly damaging his front wing, but unlike Sato, he managed to get going again and return to the pits for repairs.

Because of the quick work of the marshals, the session recommenced for a second time with over 11 minutes left on the clock.

McLaughlin continued to demonstrate that he was a serious contender for pole position after harrying his number three Penske around the tight streets of St Petersburg, with his efforts being rewarded after managing the first sub-minute lap of the session with a time of 59.7342, over three tenths quicker than Herta.

Alex Palou’s challenging practice session came to a frustrating end after going head-on into the wall at Turn 9, bringing out the red flag for the third time.

Thanks to the quick work of the IndyCar recovery team, the session got back underway with just under a minute left. Still, no one could beat McLaughlin’s time, who finished the session fastest ahead of Herta and Pagenaud, with Rossi, Power, Veekay rounding off the top six.

Palou finished the session seventh fastest in spite of his late shunt, with Kirkwood eighth fastest ahead of Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist.


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