Power fastest in opening practice for Indy GP

Photo: IndyCar

INDIANAPOLIS – Will Power did the usual business with a final lap flier putting him top of the timesheets after the opening 75-minute practice for the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, Round 5 of the Verizon IndyCar Series season.

A 1:09.8943 lap in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, around the 2.439-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, was enough to do the job and bump Graham Rahal.

Rahal was second in the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Rahal Letterman Lanigan with Theodore Racing Honda at 1:10.0699, ahead of Power’s three Team Penske teammates – Juan Pablo Montoya, series points leader Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves.

Late bumps dropped the Andretti Autosport pair of Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi out of the top 10, but until the final two or three minutes, Andretti’s full quartet was all in the top-10. Marco Andretti ended best of the bunch in eighth with Carlos Munoz in 10th, Hunter-Reay 11th and Rossi 13th in what was a much improved session for the team.

Castroneves caused one of two red flags when he stopped on course at Turn 2; the other driver to stop was Matthew Brabham in his opening Verizon IndyCar Series practice session in the No. 61 PIRTEK Team Murray Chevrolet. He lost a rear wheel and stopped at pit in. Brabham only completed three laps.

Others of note in their first session: Spencer Pigot was 12th for RLL Racing; Gabby Chaves was 16th in his first running for Dale Coyne Racing, two tenths clear of teammate Conor Daly in 20th. Brabham was 24th, behind fellow one-off entrants JR Hildebrand and Alex Tagliani.

Per the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team, James Hinchcliffe had a small fire and was unable to run during the session in his No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda.

With potentially hazardous and/or rainy weather expected later today, the first session was a busy one set under calm and clear skies with ambient temperatures of 73 degrees and track temperatures of 89, per Firestone.

Times are below with second practice set from 3 to 4:15 p.m. ET and local time.


Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.