Felix Rosenqvist gave McLaren CEO Zak Brown plenty to think about over the summer as the underfire Swede secured pole position for tomorrow’s Gallagher Grand Prix.
Rosenqvist’s well-timed second pole position of the season will have been even made sweeter by the fact he pipped the man who is set to replace him for Arrow McLaren Alexander Rossi for pole, with Pato O’Ward lining up third to give Arrow McLaren a good chance of victory.
After the unique doubleheader at Iowa, it was back to normal for the IndyCar fraternity for the third and final race to be held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the second on the old Grand Prix circuit.
Josef Newgarden was back in the number two car despite being in a race against time to get 100% fit following his crash at Iowa, with Alex Palou in the number 10 machine for now as the legal battle between his lawyers and Chip Ganassi racing rages on in the background.
Callum Ilott went into the weekend knowing what his plans would be for next year after announcing before the start of the weekend that he had extended his deal with Juncos-Hollinger Racing for two more years.
Newgarden would be in group one, along with O’Ward, Ilott, Scott McLaughlin, Graham Rahal, Christian Lundgaard, Conor Daly, Jack Harvey, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, Kyle Kirkwood and Indy 500 rookie of the year Jimmie Johnson.
There were no signs of rustiness for Newgarden as he breezed into the fast 12 after finishing second fastest in the group as Daly topped the times. Power finished third in his group ahead of O’Ward Lundgaard and Pagenaud, whilst McLaughlin finished a lowly eighth and would start 15th for tomorrow’s race.
With dark clouds hanging over him, Palou began Qualifying in group 2 alongside GMR Grand Prix winner Colton Herta and Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson. Devlin DeFrancesco and Rosenqvist would be looking to prove a point in a time of intense uncertainty for both drivers, whilst David Malukas looked to put some daylight between himself and Kirkwood with a good starting position.
Group two was completed by Rossi, Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Rinus Veekay, Romain Grosjean, Takuma Sato and Dalton Kellett.
But just as the session got underway, there was huge drama as Ericsson suffered a technical failure approaching the turn five chicane forcing him to be towed back to the pits, his session done before it even had begun.
When the session restarted, Rosenqvist topped the times ahead of Herta, Veekay Palou and Rossi, whilst Malukas produced another giant-killing performance to knock Grosjean and Dixon out of Qualifying.
The fast 12 saw Herta set the early pace ahead of Palou, only for Veekay and Daly to put the cat amongst the pigeons when they moved to the front.
Ed Carpenter Racing’s joy didn’t last long as Veekay and Daly failed to make the cut as Power led the times ahead of Rosenqvist, Newgarden, Rossi, O’Ward and Lundgaard back in the fast six for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Palou finished seventh ahead of Veekay, Herta, who lost over a tenth on his final run and Daly rounding off the top 10.
The first runs in the fast 6 saw Rossi take provisional pole ahead of the Lundgaard, who was a surprising second ahead of the Penske pairing of Newgarden and Power, whilst row three was a provisional Arrow McLaren lockout as O’Ward went fifth ahead of Rosenqvist, who had yet to set a time.
But when the Swede finally hit the track, he made his one and only lap count with his time of 1:10.2265 good enough for his second pole position of the season with Rossi second fastest and over two tenths down.
O’Ward moved up to third on the grid ahead of Power, with Newgarden and Lundgaard filling row three.
During the post-session press conference which Motorlat attended, Rosenqvist was surprised by how serene the day had been as he looked ahead to tomorrow’s race.
“It’s been a surprisingly smooth day, and those days are kind of rare. The whole team has done really good prep work for this race we tested here about a month ago, which I think really helped as we got here with a good starting package, so we knew we had to extract everything out of Qualifying.”
“We only did one lap in Q1, (we) saved those tyres for the fast 6, and everything just worked out to plan, so it’s rare to those days, but today was well executed and now all eyes on tomorrow.”