IndyCar drivers ‘on edge’ with St Petersburg track surface

Will Power IndyCar St Petersburg

Will Power negotiates the St Petersburg IndyCar track. Picture: Team Penske Twitter

IndyCar drivers were left “on edge” in Practice 1 on a patched-up St Petersburg track, says Will Power.

The opening session of the season was a bruising affair with 2022 St Petersburg race winner Scott McLaughlin and Team Penske team-mate Josef Newgarden among those to hit the wall.

McLaughlin did so twice, initially clipping the barriers at Turn 10, which forced him into a hair-raising save at the quick Turn 12, then a glancing blow at Turn 3.

The latter was a hotspot for drama, with 2022 rookie of the year Christian Lundgaard slapping the wall with both left-hand side corners of the #45 Rahal Letterman Lanigan entry.

Newgarden damaged a toe link when he got the concrete after his #2 Chevrolet broke loose in Turn 9, while Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay managed to brush the wall on drivers’ right entry to Turn 10 and rookie Benjamin Pedersen scraped the front wing of his AJ Foyt Racing machine when he got all crossed up at Turn 4.

Among all of that, several drivers, Penske’s Power included, has excursions up the various run-off areas as they battled a strong wind, blowing across the main straight from drivers’ left to right, and a new compound of brake pad.

“Very, very difficult conditions,” said the 2022 champion, who was eighth-fastest in Practice 1.

“A lot of wind, so very difficult to predict what the car’s going to do.

“Turn 3 here’s become way more difficult as well. It seems to bottom out pretty bad and that’s usually a wide-open corner but right now, it’s on the edge.”

Practice 1 was briefly halted just after the 20-minute mark as recovery crews assessed the break-up of a concrete patch on the exit of Turn 3.

However, Turn 4 also caused a number of dramas, which Kyle Kirkwood put down to a new surface.

“I feel like there’s multiple contributing factors to probably what you saw out there,” said the Andretti Autosport driver after being classified fourth for the session.

“Not Turn 3, but Turn 4. First of all, there’s new pavement. I’m not sure if the bump has gotten worse or better there, right at the initial brake pressure.

“[There is also the] Tailwind and then it’s new pavement as well. Ultimately, it had less grip.

“We expected it to have more grip because that’s what happened last year in Turn 5 – they put new pavement, and there was actually more grip – but now there’s definitely less from Turn 3 to Turn 4. That may change with evolution.”

McLaughlin, who won from pole position on the Florida street circuit just over 12 months ago, finished 10th-fastest while Newgarden was only 22nd.

Practice 2 starts on Saturday at 10:00 ET/Sunday at 02:00 AEDT and then Qualifying from 14:15 ET/06:15 AEDT, with both of those sessions live and ad-free on Stan Sport.

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