McLaren situation ‘not dire’ despite missing practice top 10

McLaren IndyCar Alexander Rossi

Alexander Rossi

The McLaren IndyCar Team is not in a bad situation despite missing the top 10 in Practice 1 in St Petersburg, according to Race Director Gavin Ward.

Pato O’Ward was the team’s best at the end of the opening session of the season in 11th position, although only 0.4032s off the pace set by Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon.

Felix Rosenqvist took 15th in the #6 McLaren entry while its latest recruit, Alexander Rossi, ended up just 21st at 0.8471s away from top spot.

No one except rookies Benjamin Pedersen and Agustin Canapino ran alternate tyres during the afternoon, although it was apparent that a number of drivers went out on new primaries in the latter stages, a point noted by Ward.

“It was a really solid day, to be honest,” he said.

“It was a solid first session for the team. It seems like a lot of cars ran a second set of tyres, and we didn’t. We’re trying to set ourselves up for the best place for qualifying.

“Pato and Felix seem pretty happy. And Rossi, we’ve got a little work to do there and dig in, but that’s to be expected.

“Him being new to the team, there’s a little more to figure out in that world.

“I don’t think it’s dire days by any means. We need to find a couple tenths, and we’ll be right there.”

Rossi, who had spent the entirety of his IndyCar career with Andretti Autosport until last month’s pre-season test, had a similar take.

“It was a tough afternoon,” said the 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner.

“There are a lot of differences for me, obviously, but the track seems to be a little bit unpredictable based on everyone’s comments compared to last year.

“It’s not quite the start we wanted, but we have plenty of time left.”

Rossi’s old team took second, fourth, 14th, and 16th in a session dominated by Honda-powered cars, which filled the top five.

O’Ward was fourth of those in the Chevrolet ranks, behind Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay and Team Penske drivers Will Power and Scott McLaughlin.

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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