Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama Preview
IndyCar is back, and could be better then ever!
Following the usual tremendously long winter break, racing has returned for the IndyCar series, bringing with it an incredible line up of drivers. With stars of the sport in new places, and stars of other racing series, trying their hand at the top open wheel series in America!
Throughout testing it was O’Ward on top, carrying the momentum from last year, where the Arrow McLaren SP team became a real front runner, only just missing out on multiple wins! So, it is not a surprise really to see him on pole, even though he had to fight hard to get it! Patricio has been a star ever since he first joined the sport, and unless things take a dramatic turn, he will be in the title fight for sure this year! Rosenqvist, who had moved to the squad from Chip Ganassi, had the pace for the top 6, but spun off and lost his best time, however he could still be a factor today in the race, if they use strategy right!
Off the back of one of their worst seasons in a long time, Andretti Autosport are starting this year on the right foot, whilst Hinchcliffe binned it early on in qualifying, ruining his weekend, Herta and especially Rossi are quick, so could be the biggest threat to Pato in the race. These road and street circuits may be the strength of those two drivers, which bodes well given the lack of ovals this year! Rossi himself is driving angry I believe, after a horrible 2020, so anyone in his way better watch out, as he should be another title contender!
Chip Ganassi Racing will be the other main threat in the race, I don’t think much needs to be said about Dixon, as it has already likely been said. Given he normally isn’t a great qualifier, P5 may be the perfect place to finally break his record of 2nd places at this track! If there were any doubts as to why Chip hired Palou to join his team after just one season, they were dispelled today, he topped the practice session earlier in the day, and just missed out on pole. I can’t wait to see how he will perform this year! Ericsson has also started the year well, although having been beaten by the younger teammate today, he will need to up his game to show his worth in the squad! This year is going to be tough for Johnson, who is clearly still trying to get used to open wheel cars, we can see there is progress at least, so there may be more to come in the future.
Team Penske have a good track record around this place, especially with Newgarden, so having no one in the top three, shows the level of talent in the sport. You should always be wary of that team though, they know what they are doing, so could have saved something for the race. Power and Newgarden are in a position to capitalise on opportunities, through incidents or strategy. Pagenaud is the driver under threat this year I feel, since he won the 2019 Indy 500, we have only seen the odd glimpse of pace, such as his win from last at Iowa. That isn’t good enough for Penske, with Power and Newgarden always near the front, and even McLaughlin beating him yesterday, he needs to find a fix soon! Scott himself was brilliant, getting used to open wheel cars very quickly, with time he could be a star of the sport!
Grosjean may be my driver of qualifying today, bearing in mind not only is this his first time racing in America let alone IndyCar, it is also his first competitive outing since the horrifying crash at Bahrain, his performance was staggering. It just shows how good a driver he is, despite his reputation in F1, and suggests he could go far in this sport. I do think he could win at least one race this year. Daly was another to impress, getting in the top ten on a track he isn’t comfortable on. Could this be the year we see a breakthrough drive from Conor?
Looking at the more disappointing performances from Saturday, Jones should be worried that his rookie teammate beat him first time out, Ed does have skill, as we saw back in 2017, I am just worried he will be outshone at Dale Coyne. AJ Foyt were hoping to have a bit of a revival, with the addition of Bourdais to the squad, however so far we aren’t seeing any fruits of that, it may take time, although in a sport as cut throat as this, time is limited. Finally, RLL could be the most disappointing of all, having won here back in 2019, the last time we raced here. They just seemed to have no pace, so it could be track specific, they better hope so at least. We know that Indy will be their strongest chance, has it come at the cost of road and street courses?
Arrow McLaren SP, Andretti Autosport and Chip Ganassi Racing are the ones on form at Barber, and will likely make up the podium positions in the race, that being said, something crazy always happens in IndyCar, so don’t get too complacent!