The first of two days of official pre-season testing for the upcoming 2019 NTT IndyCar Series took place yesterday at the Circuit of the Americas, with Harding Steinbrenner Racing‘s Colton Herta setting the fastest lap of the day.
Herta set the fastest time in both the morning and afternoon sessions on the day, putting his #88 Honda to the top of the leaderboards will a best lap of 1:46.6258 in the afternoon session; a lap-time that was just over two seconds faster than his lap in the morning that had been the fastest of the session.
Albeit only pre-season testing, where leaderboard positions cannot be taken as gospel for potential predictions for the upcoming season, Herta’s pace did turn some heads. The American teenager looked very comfortable out on the Texan track, despite having only had limited IndyCar running under his belt and no prior-experience at COTA.
Lap-times are expected to be better tomorrow when teams no longer have to worry about running out of sets of tyres for the remainder of the test. Nevertheless, for comparison to Formula 1, Herta’s best lap was just over fourteen-seconds slower than Lewis Hamilton‘s pole position time for the 2018 United States Grand Prix; a sizable gap that must be expected considering the known differences between IndyCar and Formula 1.
Herta set his best lap-time just before the final hour of the afternoon session, with the American holding almost a two-second gap over his nearest rival right until the final minutes. Team Penske‘s Will Power and Helio Castroneves got close to Herta’s time but would have to settle for second and third on the time-sheets respectively.
Castroneves would complete the most laps of anybody over the course of the day. The Brazilian will, once again, only compete in the two races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this season, but the team elected to utilize the series veteran by having him complete numerous long runs to gather valuable tyre data. He ended the day with fifty-six laps to his name.
Chip Ganassi Racing‘s duo of Felix Rosenqvist and Scott Dixon were fourth and fifth on the time-sheets, closely followed by Penske’s Simon Pagenaud and Andretti Autosport‘s Alexander Rossi. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing‘s Graham Rahal was eighth fastest, with Dale Coyne Racing‘s rookie Santino Ferrucci and Ed Carpenter Racing‘s Spencer Pigot rounding out the top ten for the day.
Arrow Schmidt Peterson‘ team-mates Marcus Ericsson and James Hinchcliffe ended the day just outside of the top ten in eleventh and twelfth places respectively. Marcus ended the morning session as the second fastest driver with a 1:48.8392, but an improvement of four-tenths in the afternoon still only saw him down in eleventh; such was the pace increase late in the day when the teams and drivers gained further understanding of the new circuit.
The top sixteen drivers on the time-sheets all set lap-times in the afternoon session that were better than the fastest time of the morning; a 1:48.7443 that had also been set by Colton Herta. The remaining nine drivers all improved on their morning times – or lack thereof – but not by as much as those ahead of them.
Britain’s Jack Harvey set the seventeenth-fastest time for Meyer Shank Racing. He was just ahead of Carlin‘s #23 Chevrolet driven by RC Enerson. No official confirmation has been made that Enerson will race for the British team this season, but the amount of pre-season running that the American has gotten so far this year is a strong hint that an announcement is coming; be it a full-time deal or a part-time deal. RC was three-tenths faster than Carlin stablemate Max Chilton, who was twenty-first at the end of the day.
A.J. Foyt Enterprises completed much fewer laps than most teams. Whilst the “top teams” such as Penske and Andretti completed 142 and 119 combined laps respectively, Foyt’s pair of Matheus Leist and Tony Kanaan only completed a combined total of forty-eight laps. The team may be electing to save tyres for tomorrow’s second day of testing, when the track will be rubbered in further and, therefore, more representative of the conditions expected when the cars hit the track for the second round of the season in March.
Testing will continue tomorrow, with the day’s running being live-streamed on IndyCar’s social media channels.
The 2019 NTT IndyCar Series will kick-off with the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, March 10.
2019 NTT IndyCar Series – COTA pre-season test – Day one results:
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