Takuma Sato has dominated a rain-delayed qualifying session to earn pole position at the IndyCar Series’ season-opener at St Petersburg.
The A.J. Foyt Enterprises driver was quickest in each preceding phase of qualifying before eclipsing his other five rivals in the final ‘Fast Six’ phase to claim the fourth pole position of his IndyCar Series career.
His performance was particularly impressive in the second stage of qualifying, where he – along with Mike Conway and Ryan Briscoe – bravely opted to run on the Firestone red-walled dry-weather on a still-damp circuit. While the wet-shod runners were forced to switch rubber, Conway and Briscoe found their tyres going off, while Sato set progressively quicker times in the final minutes on the same tyre set.
Sato will share the front row of the grid with Tony Kanaan, whose move to the Chip Ganassi Racing team got off to a perfect start. Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power occupy Row 2 for Andretti Autosport and Team Penske respectively, ahead of defending champion Scott Dixon and Marco Andretti.
Thunderstorms and a severe weather warning of a tornado alert saw qualifying delayed by over three hours, and by the time the session got underway, the first qualifying group faced a very wet track.
The slippery conditions saw the likes of Graham Rahal and James Hinchcliffe consigned to an early bath (no pun intended) after both were stripped of their two fastest lap times for triggering red flags after spinning. Sébastien Bourdais, Simon Pagenaud and series returnee Juan Pablo Montoya also failed to make it past the first qualifying hurdle and will start well down the order.
2014 IndyCar Series Grand Prix of St Petersburg – Qualifying:
|‘Fast Six’ Session||Team / Entry||Time|
|1.||Takuma Sato||A.J. Foyt Enterprises Honda||1:01.8686|
|2.||Tony Kanaan||Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet||+ 0.2951|
|3.||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport Honda||+ 0.3481|
|4.||Will Power||Team Penske Chevrolet||+ 0.5269|
|5.||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet||+ 0.5768|
|6.||Marco Andretti||Andretti Autosport Honda||+ 1.0909|
|‘Round 2’ Session||Team / Entry||Time|
|7.||Carlos Muñoz||Andretti Autosport Honda||1:03.3955|
|8.||Jack Hawksworth||Bryan Herta Autosport Honda||1:03.5738|
|9.||Ryan Briscoe||Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet||1:03.6206|
|10.||Hélio Castroneves||Team Penske Chevrolet||1:03.6635|
|11.||Sebastián Saavedra||KV Racing Technology / AFS Racing Honda||1:03.8374|
|12.||Mike Conway||Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet||1:03.9618|
|Group Sessions||Team / Entry||Time|
|13.||Sébastien Bourdais||KV Racing Technology Honda||1:15.8337|
|14.||Simon Pagenaud||Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda||1:12.3741|
|15.||Mikhail Aleshin||Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda||1:15.9111|
|16.||Justin Wilson||Dale Coyne Racing Honda||1:12.5890|
|17.||Carlos Huertas||Dale Coyne Racing Honda||1:16.8105|
|18.||Juan Pablo Montoya||Team Penske Chevrolet||1:12.6994|
|19.||James Hinchcliffe||Andretti Autosport Honda||1:17.0155|
|20.||Charlie Kimball||Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet||1:13.0048|
|21.||Graham Rahal||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda||1:52.9601|
|22.||Josef Newgarden||Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda||1:13.1170|
Image via XPB Images