Defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power stormed to his fifth Verizon P1 Award of the 2015 season on Saturday as Penske once again dominated proceedings around the streets of Toronto.
The Australian driver bounced back from nearly missing out on a place in the Fast Six by edging out Penske teammates Simon Pagenaud and Juan Pablo Montoya in the final pole position shootout, securing the 41st pole position of his IndyCar career.
As a result, Power surpassed Rick Mears for fifth place in the all-time IndyCar pole positions list, and has given himself a golden opportunity to convert the result into what would be a much-needed race win on Saturday.
At the start of the session, group one featured a number of possible contenders for pole position and was arguably the more competitive roster with three of the Penske drivers featuring. Pagenaud quickly established his dominance with his first run in the session, being the only man to dip under the one minute mark ahead of teammates Power and Pablo Montoya.
Many of the Honda teams made the switch to the red-ringed softer tires in a bid to make the next stage of qualifying, such was the pace of the Chevrolet-powered teams.
James Jakes was the only driver to break up the Chevy party, squeezing into sixth after Sebastian Saavedra was stripped of his fastest lap for going off-track and bringing out local yellow flags. Predictably, the Penske trio – all posting sub-60 second laps – led the way ahead of Sebastien Bourdais and Luca Filippi, joining Jakes in the top six.
The second group saw Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon set the early pace on the hard Firestone tires, but both opted to make the switch to reds for their second runs along with the rest of the field in a bid to find more grip on the bumpy Toronto street circuit.
Before any of the drivers could get in a second lap time, the session was red flagged after Rodolfo Gonzalez crashed his Dale Coyne Racing car at turn one. As a result, group two was brought to an early end, allowing Kanaan and Dixon to retain their positions at the top.
Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato managed to make it a hat-trick of Honda-powered cars in the next stage of qualifying by finishing third and fourth, and were joined by Helio Castroneves and Josef Newgarden who rounded out the top six. Jack Hawksworth was the unfortunate driver to finish on the bubble, ending seventh and missing out by just one-tenth of a second.
Montoya managed to rekindle his P1 escapades from practice on Friday by winning the opening salvo in the second stage of qualifying, leading Castroneves and Pagenaud after the first set of runs. Will Power was unable to get a clean lap in early on, leaving him with plenty of work to do towards the end of the session in order to stay in the fight for the Verizon P1 Award.
Yet again, all of the drivers made the switch to the red Firestone tires for their final runs, but it was Montoya who once again managed to top the timesheets. The Colombian finished three-tenths of a second clear of Pagenaud, who performed admirably to make the Fast Six on scrubbed tires.
Will Power managed to hoist himself up into third place by the checkered flag, bumping Penske teammate Helio Castroneves down into seventh place. Sebastian Bourdais and Scott Dixon did enough to get into the final shootout for pole position with P4 and P5, whilst Luca Filippi squeezed into the Fast Six by just 0.0018 seconds.
Montoya and Power wasted little time in laying down an impressive pace at the beginning of the pole position shootout. Both dipped under the one minute mark with their opening lap times, with Montoya holding a slender advantage ahead of the final runs from the six drivers in Toronto.
With his final lap time, Pagenaud managed to pull himself up into top spot with a new fastest lap, appearing to put himself in the frame for pole position. However, Power then produced a scintillating lap of 59.5920 seconds to edge out his teammate and clinch the Verizon P1 Award in Toronto.
The result marks Power’s third pole position in the last four races, and with title rival Montoya starting third, the Australian has given himself a great chance of cutting into the Colombian’s lead at the top of the championship standings on Sunday.
Scott Dixon and Sebastian Bourdais both managed to post a sub-one minute lap time, but had to settle for fourth and fifth at the end of the session. Luca Filippi attempted just a single run in the Fast Six shootout, and finished eight-tenths down on Power in sixth place.
After the session, Power made no secret of his happiness, but remained wary ahead of the long race on Sunday.
“Starting on the pole is great to keep out of any messes, and obviously IndyCar races are never straightforward so it’s just awesome to get the pole,” Power told indycar.com. “It’s a long day [on Sunday] and we’ll see what we can do.
“You’ve got to drive around here. It’s all man-handling because you’ve got those slippery surfaces in the middle of the corners, so you’ve got to be on the wheel a lot.”
The Honda Indy Toronto is live on NBCSN on Sunday from 3pm ET.
Honda Indy Toronto – Qualifying Result
1. (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 59.4280 (106.314)
2. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 59.6095 (105.990)
3. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 59.6242 (105.964)
4. (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 59.8879 (105.497)
5. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 59.9012 (105.474)
6. (20) Luca Filippi, Chevrolet, 01:00.2312 (104.896)
7. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 59.8940 (105.486)
8. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 59.9500 (105.388)
9. (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 01:00.0901 (105.142)
10. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:00.1241 (105.083)
11. (67) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:00.1323 (105.068)
12. (7) James Jakes, Honda, 01:00.4576 (104.503)
13. (26) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 01:00.6849 (104.112)
14. (41) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 01:01.4569 (102.804)
15. (83) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 01:00.8553 (103.820)
16. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:01.5959 (102.572)
17. (8) Sebastian Saavedra, Chevrolet, 01:00.9926 (103.586)
18. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 01:01.9907 (101.919)
19. (5) Conor Daly, Honda, 01:01.2543 (103.144)
20. (4) Stefano Coletti, Chevrolet, 01:02.4000 (101.250)
21. (19) Tristan Vautier, Honda, 01:01.5065 (102.721)
22. (98) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 01:02.4016 (101.247)
23. (18) Rodolfo Gonzalez, Honda, 01:05.0167 (97.175)