Team Penske have shown they are taking no prisoners in this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series as their cars locked out the top four in qualifying at St Petersburg.
The quartet was led by a man who is rapidly becoming a St Pete specialist – Will Power – who set a storming time of 1:00.693 to shut out Simon Pagenaud, who is doing his first race for Penske this weekend, by 0.032 seconds to claim his fifth pole position at the Floridian street circuit.
Power’s domination saw him beat Sebastien Bourdais’ 2003 lap record – 1:00.928 – during each of the three rounds of qualifying. His pace is more than likely down to the newest evolution of Chevrolet’s engine as well as the manufacturer’s new aero kits.
Third place and 0.1 behind Pagenaud was Helio Castroneves who managed to sneak ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya by 0.02 seconds.
Pole sitter Power said: “It was tight. Full credit to the team. I’m stoked to get pole. It just shows the work we’ve done over the winter. It’s four good drivers that will battle it out.
“Team Penske has definitely made ground over the winter over the other teams. I think it’s going to be a pretty interesting four-way battle amongst the team and Scott Dixon is right in there as well. I expect those five to be the championship contenders.”
The best of the rest behind the Penske squadron was also the first Honda powered machine as Takuma Sato took fifth place and showed that he shouldn’t be a man to discount come the race.
Of note, Simona De Silvestro qualified 11th in what is her first race back for Andretti Autosport after a year out.
Nearer the back than hoped was fastest rookie in qualifying Stefano Coletti, his 17th position put him ahead of drivers including Jack Hawksworth, James Jakes and Gabby Chaves. Propping up the back row of the field is Francesco Dracone – who also set the slowest lap two seconds adrift of the next slowest car – with Carlos Huertas lining up 24th.