Last season on road and street course, IndyCar teams were forced to use only one set of tires in each of the three “knockout” qualifying segments. But this year, the teams have been allowed more leeway in creating strategies.
Each team gets six sets of primary Firestone Firehawks and three sets of alternates for the race weekend, and they must use one set each of sticker primaries and alternates during the race itself. However, with IndyCar now allowing them to use the tires during qualifying as they see fit, that could lead to more chances being taken – and, potentially, a jumbled grid for Sunday’s Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (Noon ET, NBC Sports Network).
“By being able to choose at some tracks, ‘Do I use all my new tires in qualifying in an effort to guarantee myself a better position or do I think I’m better off saving new tires for the race?’ is what we’ve opened up by allowing the strategy to become more involved,” INDYCAR vice president of technology Will Phillips told the series’ official website.
Firestone is rolling out a primary tire for St. Pete that’s largely similar to last year’s, while the alternate features a compound with softer tread and more grip than last year in an attempt to create a bigger gap between performance of the two type of tires.
Qualifying begins at 2:05 p.m. ET today, with NBC Sports Network picking up coverage from St. Pete at 2:30 p.m. ET.