The annual trip north of the border has come for the Verizon IndyCar Series. Teams and drivers saw plenty of work today on the bumpy city streets of Toronto. Defending series champion Simon Pagenaud was the fastest on Friday, with a lap of 60.2573 seconds around the 1.786-mile street course. He led the way for Team Penske in the afternoon.
Last year’s race winner, Will Power, was second fastest in today’s practice, followed by current championship leader Scott Dixon in third. Graham Rahal was fourth fastest overall, and Helio Castroneves rounded out the top five, fresh off of his win last weekend at Iowa. Helio has finished on the podium in four of the last five races here, but has never won.
Friday Combined Practice Results
There were 838 total laps turned on Friday, with two red flags halting the sessions. Esteban Gutierrez and Carlos Munoz each had minor incidents in Turns 1 and 2, but neither driver was injured. Conor Daly also appeared to have a mechanical issue during practice. Many drivers were jumping around due to all of the bumps on the track.
Marco Andretti had an oil issue in the morning session, but still managed to find the pace in the afternoon. He was 6th fastest on Friday, just ahead of teammates Takuma Sato and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Josef Newgarden was the slowest of the Penske cars, but was still 7th quick overall. Last weekend’s runner-up in Iowa, JR Hildebrand, rounded out the top ten.
Canadian James Hinchcliffe finished on the podium in last year’s race, but will have to find some speed for qualifying tomorrow, if he wants another positive result at his home track on Sunday. He was 16th on the charts today, just ahead of Munoz, who was 17th. Oddly enough for Carlos, four of his last five races here, he has finished in 17th position.
Sebastian Saavedra rounded out the field on Friday, as he is behind the wheel of the No. 7 Honda machine for SPM this weekend. Mikhail Aleshin is expected to be back in the seat for the next race at Mid-Ohio. Sebastien Bourdais was also at the track today, and is progressing very well on his recovery from his accident during Indianapolis 500 qualifying. He is aiming to be back in the car next month, which is remarkable to think about.
There will be one final 45-minute practice session tomorrow at 10 AM ET, followed by qualifying for the Honda Indy Toronto, which begins at 2:15 PM. Qualifying will air live via IndyCar streaming, while NBCSN will broadcast it at 6:30.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar
Simon Pagenaud: “The car has been phenomenal all day. I feel very comfortable. It’s great to be back in Toronto. This track is so much fun to drive on because it’s different to other tracks. Here it’s very low grip, you slide around in the corners. The tarmac changes throughout the corner, and it’s giving you a great challenge. I really enjoy that, I really do. You need to change your driving corner-to-corner. It’s not boring, I can tell you that. I’m excited. Again, the DXC car is really good. The track is changing as all the series go on, so we’re going to need to follow the track. I think we’ve started right where we need to be. The difficult part from now is to find the magic setup on the car for the red (Firestone alternate) tires. Like Will (Power) said, there’s quite a bit of a difference on the balance from the black (Firestone primary) tires to the reds. We’ll see, I think we’re OK, but that’s going to be the tough part.”
Conor Daly: “Starting the session, the car was really good. There was a large improvement (over Practice 1), which is nice. It was crazy to have the small failure that we had (heim joint on rear suspension), but the track is very bumpy, so those things happen. I’m just glad it wasn’t any worse than it was and that we had the run off in Turn 1. We’re in a really good position for tomorrow, I think the car was a lot better and we still ended up in the top 15 even without running reds (Firestone alternate tires), so that’s good.”
Max Chilton: “We picked up three positions from first to second practice today in the Gallagher car, but there is still more work to be done. This series is so close and the times are so tight, which is a direct reflection of the competition in INDYCAR. You really have to be on your game each weekend and get the most out of the car to be near the front. We’ll take what we learned from today and adapt for tomorrow and hopefully get a spot in the Firestone Fast Six.”
Scott Dixon: “We still have some work to do, but I’m pleased with the start overall for the No. 9 NTT Data team. It’s still going to take a bit more to get to where the Penske cars are, but I’m confident in the team and the decisions we’ll make heading into Practice 3 and qualifying tomorrow.”
Tony Kanaan: “The track is just a completely different animal this year. It’s going to be a lot harder to pass in Turn 1 with how much bumpier it is, but with the repave in Turn 8, a new passing zone opened up to make up for the loss of passing in that first turn. We worked through a lot of different things today, so we’re looking forward to hopefully finding out exactly what works for qualifying tomorrow in the first practice. I think we have a good shot of putting the No. 10 NTT Data Honda into the Firestone Fast Six tomorrow.”
Will Power: “We got to try the red (Firestone alternate) tires, which actually aren’t that different from the blacks (Firestone primary tires) speed-wise, only a quarter of a second, maybe, three-tenths. It’s a tough track to get the balance right. The grip levels are so different all the way around. You’ve got some bumpy areas with no grip, and bumpy areas with grip and them completely smooth areas. It’s something else. Very tough to get it all right.”
Carlos Munoz: “Two 45-minute practice sessions go really fast. The car is competitive, for Practice 2 we made some good improvement over Practice 1. It’s a shame we couldn’t try the red (Firestone alternate) tires because we had some electrical issues with the engine but we’ll see what we have tomorrow. It’s really close at Toronto-one tenth can mean a lot of positions. Our engineers will analyze the data and see where can improve even more for tomorrow.”
Graham Rahal: “We started right where we left off in Detroit and that setup seems to carry over pretty good. Obviously, the Rousseau Metal Honda is pretty competitive. We have a little bit of stuff to work on overnight to improve, though. We actually had a lap going that was significantly better than what ended up being our fastest, but I had to lift for someone in the runoff in Turn 8. I feel decent with where we are right now. I would like to improve overnight to be a little more confident, but we’re headed in the right direction.”
Esteban Gutierrez: “It’s not ideal because we lost track time, but sometimes as a driver you have to push and find the limit of the car, especially in my situation where I’m learning the car. We made some very positive changes from Practice 1 to Practice 2, and I think we can keep that positive momentum because I felt the car was pretty strong and I felt good in the car. I just tried a different line in Turn 1, which didn’t work out very well, but we have to look forward. I feel sorry for the team because we have a bit of work to do, but we’ll catch up tomorrow. I like the track because it’s very challenging with the different surfaces from asphalt to concrete in the corners. You basically turn the car in and as soon as you get to the concrete you have less grip, so you have to anticipate that and it’s difficult to judge the balance of the car. It’s good that I approached the weekend with a bit of experience and knowing what to expect. It’s obviously helping me to find my way through on the direction that we need to take. It’s also been really helpful to have Sebastien (Bourdais) here. The best driver coach I can have this weekend. He’s been helping a lot and we’re all happy he is here.”
Ed Jones: “It was a good first practice. Getting up to speed was all right. It’s a challenging track, everyone seemed to be going off a bit. They smoothed out the track a lot which has helped, but in other areas the bumps have gotten a lot worse. This track is always difficult. We struggled with the balance in the car in the first session and in the second session it got a bit worse. We tried to fix it, but we didn’t make as much progress as we would’ve liked. It’s a shame, but we’ll look at everything and try to make changes for tomorrow.” (About the condition of his foot): “It hurts a lot, but I have a high pain tolerance, so I’ll be OK. I’m still able to brake without issues.”
Spencer Pigot: “We started off pretty good this morning and that continued on through this afternoon. We do need to find a little bit of balance on the red (Firestone alternate) tires, but we are encouraged by some different things we have seen in the data. We just need to look everything over to see where we can get better, then tackle those areas. ”
JR Hildebrand: “I’ve always liked Toronto. Even for a Friday, the energy level on Friday is super high. There were a ton of people out here, the autograph session was packed and you can see the grandstands filling in around the track. It was a pretty good first day for us. There were definitely some things to work on, but we know where can find some time. Now it is going to become about making some changes so we can go back out tomorrow and pick up that time. The Preferred Freezer guys are doing a really good job and hopefully we can continue to improve tomorrow.”
Takuma Sato: “It was a good session and it’s so nice to be back in Toronto. The fans are always so enthusiastic here. I really appreciate all the support, everybody comes to see us. We had good weather today. The car is working well, too. I think it was a productive session and we learned a lot. We still need to work hard, but we have a little room to go faster tomorrow, so I’m quite looking forward to that.”
Marco Andretti: “The UFD car was decent on reds (Firestone alternate tires). We still have a little to tweak to be further up than the top six. We’re not completely out of the ballpark, but we need to be a little better.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “We finished practice today top 10 overall, which is an improvement over last year. We’re still not completely satisfied with the car. We know we have lot more potential in there. We still have a lot of work to do to challenge for the top six in tomorrow’s qualifying, and hopefully we can get the DHL machine a good starting position.”
Charlie Kimball: “Honestly we’re just struggling for lap time at the moment. The car isn’t great, but we seem to make it better and not go a lot quicker. I’m pretty frustrated, but the nice thing is we’ve got Scott’s (Dixon) data to look at tonight. We’ll learn from that and make sure the No. 83 Novo Nordisk Honda is fast tomorrow.”
Alexander Rossi: “It was a difficult Friday. We were just working to find a balance I liked. I think we have a good car most of the track, but we are really struggling in one particular area that the teammates aren’t. I think if we can resolve that, we have a top six to top 10 car – which is what we’ll obviously need to earn a decent starting spot tomorrow.”