Takuma Sato was the only one of the four Andretti Autosport drivers to advance to the Firestone Fast Six at St. Petersburg on Saturday, and the veteran Japanese racer will start an excellent fifth on the grid.
Despite losing significant track time on Friday after crashing on his first lap in second practice, Sato received assistance from his team-mates – Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi – in order to get the set-up of the car right ahead of qualifying, and he was very happy with both the cars performance and the outcome of qualifying.
“I’m extremely pleased about today’s result, having had a very difficult first day yesterday,” said Sato. “The team did fantastic job, pulled everything all together, and I really have to appreciate all my team-mates.
“Obviously they all helped me out to get things put together, obviously extremely strong, hard work, and then obviously the boys did a great job to put everything together on the No. 26 car. Everything really worked well.”
Sato admits to feeling much more confident with the #26 car on Saturday, and is happy with the progress Honda have made this season after so many struggles for the Japanese engine manufacturer last season compared to rivals Chevrolet.
“Up until today’s practice, I was still a little bit nervous and didn’t get confident in the car,” said Sato. “It’s such a short time, and having a little tragedy yesterday. But in qualifying, a different type of feeling. I got out first on the red tyre, and I was extremely happy in the car.
“Like (Scott) Dixon said, it’s really a great job from Honda over the course of the winter. I know it’s a frozen package. We can do very little things, but I think engine development as well as how you try and use the car and the package, I think today is a result that we are really coming back in strong.”