Colton Herta got his and Andretti Autosport’s weekend off to a good start as the Californian set the pace in today’s Practice session at Barber.
Fresh from securing pole at Long Beach, Herta, who comes into the weekend still yet to win in 2022, managed a 1:06.5149, marginally quicker than Alex Palou and Andretti Autosport teammate Alex Rossi.
Practice for the first road course race of the season commenced in cloudy weather with temperatures well over 25 degrees baking the small crowd at the Alabama-based circuit.
At the green flag, all 26 cars left the pits to begin their installation laps, only to return shortly afterward as the clouds around the circuit continued to darken.
Series rookies David Malukas and Christian Lundgaard broke that impasse after over five minutes had gone in the session. Malukas the first to set a proper lap with a 1:10.3616 over a second quicker than Lundgaard.
Malukas then shaved over two and a half seconds on his next push run with a 1:07.9687, whilst Penske’s Will Power was the first of the big players to get a lap in banking a 1:08.5328 to go second.
Power moved to the front in the early stages of the session with a 1:07.7726 as Malukas returned to the pits, with Power following the rookie back in not long after.
Devlin DeFrancesco deposed Power from the front of the times. Power after over a quarter of the session had passed, with the Canadian rookie setting a 1:07.4681. But DeFrancesco wouldn’t last long at the front as 2021 winner Palou and Romain Grosjean moved to the front of the times before being eventually split by Rossi, who went second behind the Frenchman.
That became third when Herta banked a 1:06.5149 to move to the front, with Palou returning to second on his next run of 1:06.5657.
Rookie Callum Ilott was quick in the session’s early stages, as the 2020 Formula 2 runner up ran as high as seventh in the times ahead of the likes of Marcus Ericsson, Jack Harvey and Helio Castroneves.
Herta remained in front as the session drew to a close as the Californian remained in front of Palou, Rossi and Grosjean, with Scott McLaughlin jumping to fifth as the chequered flag fell. Scott Dixon finished practice sixth as he searched for his first win at Barber whilst McLaren’s Pato O’Ward was seventh quickest, as off-track rumours continued to swirl about the Mexican’s future.
However, it seemed likely that he would sign an extension with the team after months of speculation that he could depart from the McLaren group.
In the battle of the rookies, Ilott was the quickest of the bunch, with the eighth fastest time ahead of DeFrancesco in 14th and Lundgaard in 15th. Further back, Kyle Kirkwood finished practice in 20th, three places ahead of Malukas. Tatiana Calderon was the slowest of the rookies finishing 26th and last.