Today was supposed to be all about the four title contenders. Which one of the championship hopefuls would steal the bonus point for pole position on Saturday? Which driver would have to work his way to the front of the field? These were all questions that were to be answered during today’s qualifying session at Laguna Seca. All of the attention was supposed to be focused on these four drivers. Someone forgot to inform Colton Herta.
The second-generation driver captured his third pole of the season on Saturday, stealing the top spot from all four title contenders. Scott Dixon, Alexander Rossi, Josef Newgarden, James Hinchcliffe, and Simon Pagenaud completed the Firestone Fast Six. All four championship drivers will be starting at the front, which is extremely important at this circuit. Of the 22 races at Laguna Seca, 20 of them have been won by a driver starting inside the top three.
Qualification Results for the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey
There was action all over the track, but the day clearly belonged to the impressive 19-year old. Just minutes before qualifying began, Andretti Autosport confirmed that Herta would be in a fifth Honda for the team next season, under the Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport banner. Twenty years after his father Bryan Herta won his third consecutive pole at Laguna Seca, Colton captured his first. Herta’s pole-winning lap was a blistering 70.1405 seconds. The bonus point that Herta earned today could be very beneficial tomorrow in terms of the Rookie of the Year race.
The current leader in the Rookie standings, Felix Rosenqvist, has been fast all weekend. Unfortunately, a spin during qualifying forced him to lose his two fastest laps, which prevented him from advancing to the next round of qualifying. The Ganassi Racing driver was furious about the penalty and was heated after exiting his vehicle. Shortly afterward, he took to social media to vent more of his frustration about the call that was made by race control.
Herta wasn’t the only driver to have his future driving plans announced on Saturday. Earlier this morning, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing announced that they had exercised the option on Takuma Sato’s contract and that he would be returning to the team next season. The team also announced that they had signed another multi-year agreement to stay with Honda power. While Sato didn’t advance in qualifying, Graham Rahal did and will start 8th tomorrow.
The Astor Cup is up for grabs tomorrow afternoon. Newgarden has a 41-point lead over Rossi, 42 points over Pagenaud, and 85 in front of Dixon. As for the Rookies, Rosenqvist leads Santino Ferrucci by 26 and is now 48 ahead of Herta.
The race distance is 90 laps, which is 203.22 miles around the 2.258-mile 11-turn permanent road course.
Coverage for the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey begins at 2:30 PM ET on NBC.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar
COLTON HERTA: “I’m doing something right, the team is doing something right. We obviously had a great car this whole weekend, and after leading coming just straight off the truck and leading, being P2 in the morning and Thursday, leading the day Thursday and leading practice 1, being there in practice 2 and 3 and obviously getting the pole, it just shows the charisma of the team and everything we’re doing has been in the right directions. Obviously it feels great, now it’s two poles in two weekends.”
SCOTT DIXON: “It was definitely a good recovery for us. We’d been struggling a little bit all weekend. I’d just been struggling to get the time out of the new tires. Felix has been doing a fantastic job. I don’t know the total scenario there, but I think he would have fought hard and had a really good shot at getting the pole. He’s been quick all weekend. But that’s the way it rolls. I think we did a good job. I know our second run pace on used tires had been really good all weekend, it was just I hadn’t been able to get the speed out of the new ones. It was a nice surprise, and you know, in a good position. We’ll just have to see how it rolls tomorrow.”
ALEXANDER ROSSI: “We’ve had a pretty challenging two-and-a-half days for the (No.) 27 NAPA Andretti Honda group – really the Andretti Autosport group as a whole. We had peaks and valleys, but it came good this afternoon for the most part. It’s tough when you miss out by seven-hundredths. You can find a lot of places in a lap where you give that up. We just have to keep working at it and come up with a good race car strategy for tomorrow.”
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: “Yeah, I mean, in our situation it’s a good thing to be close to the competition, specifically the ones in the championship. Yeah, we’ve got to have a good clean run tomorrow. You’d like to win every race and maybe we’ve got a race-winning car tomorrow. It certainly feels like we have the capability of it. But we need to have a good clean day, try and not get caught up in anything, and just run our race like we normally would. I think that’s what we’ll try and focus on.”
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: “Obviously I think everyone on the Arrow car is thrilled to be on the Firestone Fast 6 this weekend, it’s been a tough log up to this last point. The test day wasn’t super productive for us and unfortunately then, over Friday and this morning, we were thrown all sorts of set up changes at the car. I’ve been having to learn how to drive a different car every session. We never gave up and huge credit to the engineers, and everybody, for keeping their heads down and coming up with the setup at the end of Practice 3 this morning, which was something we could work with and got two of our cars out of Round 1 of Qualifying, then to get into the Firestone Fast 6. I think if you would have told us that before this day started, we wouldn’t believe you. Proud of the Arrow guys, I want to try to end this season on a high note. We’ve had a rough run of luck the last few weeks and it would be nice to go into the off season with a strong result.”
SIMON PAGENAUD: “Yeah, it was definitely an intense qualifying. We pushed as hard as we could to try to be ahead. Very exciting. I mean, a little too exciting for my taste, especially Q1 (first qualifying session). The problem is we were back there on pit lane, and it’s very difficult to get your tires up to temperature when everybody is trying to get themselves up front. So it’s an accordion effect, and Q1 was complicated. Our first lap was going to be my fastest and I caught Sebastien. To make sure I was going to get a good lap I had to abort to get a second. It was a very stressful situation, but overall I wanted to be on the pole. I think we all wanted to be on the pole. But it was very tight. It was very important to at least transfer to the Fast Six, and I think we tried everything we could. I was attacking everywhere, maybe a little too much at times, but that was the time to go. Absolutely no regrets, and we did the best we could.”
WILL POWER: “We were on a good lap and I just made a mistake. I just seriously made a mistake. The second lap obviously was not good enough. It was about three hundredths off. It’s just frustrating man – frustrating man. We just weren’t good enough to make the Fast Six today. We’ve not been the quickest of the weekend, but we’ve kind of been in that area of where we qualified. We will go into tomorrow and try and help the team get a championship and try and win the race in the process.”
GRAHAM RAHAL: “I thought it was a good run. We were lucky to squeak through in the first round after Felix’s issue but were able to make the most of it. We refined the car a little bit and missed advancing to the Fast Six by two-hundredths of a second – and two-hundredths of a second around here is nothing. We should have advanced, but I made a mistake. I was on a really good lap, I was on a four (1:10.4 lap time) which would have comfortably advanced us but I just screwed up going into the corkscrew, tried to roll too much speed, got too much understeer and ruined the lap. But at the end of the day, we’re right here at the sharp end of the grid with the good guys and I think we found some good stuff that will get us excited for next year.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: “It was a missed opportunity, really. We went first in the first group there and I think with some of the Porsche rubber down, the car was really loose. We decided to go a bit more conservative for the second group and it didn’t pay off. The track rubbered up with the Firestone Indy car rubber and it really gripped the rear up – I was struggling with understeer. I had to get out of it in a couple of corners to keep it on the racetrack. We missed the cut off by nine-hundredths of a second. It’s that close and it was a really messy lap. To miss the cutoff by that much is unfortunate. We just missed the target there but hopefully tomorrow we get this (No.) 28 DHL Honda up front and fighting for the win. And hopefully, Andretti Autosport leaves with a championship as well.”
MAX CHILTON: “It was a great day all around for us and the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet. We were leading FP3 (Practice 3) for quite a while and ended the session in sixth this morning, so then you’ve got the pressure to do it again in qualifying. We finished the first round 10th, which I was happy with and I knew I could do a better lap. We had a slightly different strategy for the second round of qualifying and we were the first car to go out on reds, which was good because I had clean track. We did a really good banker lap, which I knew probably wouldn’t be enough to get me through, so I just went all out. I was up a tenth until turn four, but on the exit I just lost the car. I think we had a car quick enough to make it into the Firestone Fast Six if I could’ve gotten it all together, but it’s just so close out there so it’s really just about getting everything right on the same lap.”
MARCO ANDRETTI: “We left yesterday a little happier with the car. The car in qualifying today felt nothing like what we had yesterday. We were super loose on (Firestone) Reds and just couldn’t get the times in we needed. It’ll be a long day and we’ll have to get creative, but we’ll be ready for a fight.”
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: “It’s been a difficult 24 hours with everything that has gone on. In qualifying, I didn’t put the lap together. It’s on me. I didn’t start early enough and made a mistake on the first timed lap on the reds (Firestone alternate tire). Then on the second try I came short by about three tenths. Starting where we are is not physically ideal for me right now, but the No. 18 SealMaster Honda is better than where we qualified so we’ll just have to see what we can do tomorrow.”
CONOR DALY: “We just missed it by a little bit. We’ve really, really struggled with this car all weekend long, sadly. But the team has been working with me really well and I appreciate the opportunity. This is one of the most important weekends of my life, so it’s unfortunate that we missed it by a little bit. All I get to do is just live my life one session at a time so it’s really hard to do that – it’s a shame. The race is a totally different animal, the tires are wearing a lot here so it will be interesting. We’ll be starting in the middle of the field, so just hope that everyone will be smart. Hopefully we can find a little bit of luck and maybe make something out of it.”
MARCUS ERICSSON: “I think it was a pretty good session. I think the first round went really well and we advanced to the second round, which was really good. On the blacks, we were P2, we were looking really good to go into the Firestone Fast Six as well, but then unfortunately on the red during the end of Qualifying 2, I put a wheel off and didn’t get a clean lap. It’s disappointing because I think we could have been in the Fast Six today, but in 11th we can still race from there. I think these last couple of days we have improved the car constantly every session and I think we have a really good race car for tomorrow. A bit disappointing with the end result of qualifying, but I think we have a good chance tomorrow.”
SANTINO FERRUCCI: “I’m disappointed with our qualifying effort today. The No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing car has been good all weekend and while it was nice to make it into the Fast 12, we had a car capable of moving on to the Firestone Fast 6. Everything was going well and we were working a good lap, but I drove off track in Turn 6 and that cost us our chance to advance. We’ll have some work to do tomorrow to move up, but we’ll do our best to end the season with a strong result.”
JACK HARVEY: “It’s been a tough weekend for us. We’ve lacked pace no matter what the conditions were. Hopefully tomorrow our strategy can move us up and if there are any yellows, hopefully they will play in our favor.”
ED JONES: “It’s been a tough weekend so far, but I think we made some progress in each of the sessions. Eighteenth on the grid is certainly not where we want to be, but race strategies are going to be quite different. Hopefully we can make something happen and end the season on a high.”
TONY KANAAN: “We’ve been fighting a lack of grip all weekend and we haven’t been able to find it, so it’s obviously a bit frustrating, but we’ve got to keep working on it. The car is just not working around the track, so hopefully we’ll improve for tomorrow.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL: “I’m really disappointed with qualifying honestly. I think we showed much better pace all weekend and Max proved that the Carlin cars could get it done, so I’m just a little confused with where the lap time was or wasn’t in this case. All it took was a couple of tenths and we would’ve transferred. It just shows how competitive the series is around here at Laguna Seca and really overall. I know we’ve got a good race car in the No. 23 Tresiba Carlin Chevrolet and we’ve got plenty of good strategy to dial up for tomorrow’s race.”
MATHEUS LEIST: “It looked like it was going to be our best qualifying of the year today. We had a pretty good car – we did the right preparation. On my fastest lap on the red tires, we had an issue on the last corner. We lost a second so that was the end of our day. That one second would have easily put us in the top 12. It’s a shame because it is the last qualifying of the year and the team wanted to be there, we had to be there. We’ll just focus on tomorrow and hope to have a good race.”
SPENCER PIGOT: “Overall, it was certainly not the qualifying we wanted. It’s going to be a tough race. We’ll see what we can do with strategy and try to pass some cars on the start. We definitely need to make some improvements for tomorrow and hopefully move forward.”
FELIX ROSENQVIST: “(Reacting to his fastest two laps being disallowed and not being able to advance to the next round due to a rules violation) We were working for three days for this moment and we had the fastest time on track and the guys have just been doing an incredible job.”
TAKUMA SATO: “It was a tough session. It’s a tight field and not really what we expected out of qualifying. We made good progress through all of the practice sessions. Our performance was moving up all the time, but unfortunately the car felt a little disconnected in qualifying. It was tough. In the end we lost advancing to the next segment by three-hundredths (of a second), so it’s a pity. Everyone is in the same situation, it was the hottest day and challenging. Unfortunately we couldn’t make it to the next round, but I believe we have a strong car.”
ZACH VEACH: “It’s a little frustrating. We had something that was really good, but it kept visiting us at the wrong times. Any session that didn’t matter, we had a really good car and just tried to make it a little bit better. We just went past the tipping point for qualifying. This is kind of the way our season has been going but we’re trying our hardest to turn things around. We’ll get there!”