Alex Palou made the strongest first impression possible with new team Chip Ganassi Racing, setting the fastest lap in the first practice session for the 2021 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park. Palou’s lap time of 1:06:472 was enough to break the previous track record of 1:06:600 set by Sebastien Bourdais in 2016.
Barber was freshly repaved since IndyCar was at the circuit last in 2019, and with overcast weather it made for the perfect conditions to go fast. Four tenths of a second was the difference between the top ten, and all laps were set on the black-walled primary Firestone tyres, not even the fastest compound available.
First on the track were rookies Romain Grosjean and Jimmie Johnson, trying to get their bearings on their new equipment. Johnson had a small off-track excursion testing the limits of his Chip Ganassi Racing machine, and would finish the session in last place. Grosjean finished the session in twenty-first.
The session was red-flagged once with less than ten minutes to go as new Arrow McLaren SP driver Felix Rosenqvist made contact with the wall on the entry to pit lane. After the session, Rosenqvist explained that he was trying to turn on his pit lane speed limiter when the wheel jumped out of his hands and he lost control. With McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown in attendance, this was not a good impression for the 28-year-old Swede. The session was restarted with four minutes left, and despite not setting another lap in that time, Rosenqvist managed to finish tenth fastest in the session with a lap time of 1:06.843.
Colton Herta of Andretti Autosport set the second fastest lap time of the session in his new Gainbridge-sponsored No. 26 car with a lap time of 1:06:489. After finishing third in the points last year, Herta is picking up right where he left off with his new team.
Three-time Barber winner Josef Newgarden of Team Penske set the third fastest lap time with 1:06:495, and the man who narrowly beat him to the championship last season Scott Dixon finished the session in fourth place with a lap time of 1:06:552.
21-year-old sensation Patricio O’Ward of Arrow McLaren SP finished fifth in the session with a lap time of 1:06:628, while Alexander Rossi finished just behind him by two one-thousandths of a second, with a lap time of 1:06:630.
Team Penske had three cars in the top ten this session, as Will Power finished seventh with a lap time of 1:06:734 and rookie Scott McLaughlin right behind in eighth with a time of 1:06:749. After only putting one car in the top ten in qualifying at Barber in 2019, this bodes well for Penske’s pace moving forward.
Marcus Ericsson put three CGR cars in the top ten with a ninth place finish, with a lap time of 1:06:799, showing once again the pace that makes CGR one of the best teams on the grid.
The second practice session for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama will be at 1440 EST / 1940 BST on Sky Sports F1 in the UK and Peacock in the US.
Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama Practice 1 Results
|1||10||Alex Palou||ESP||Chip Ganassi Racing||01:06.472|
|2||26||Colton Herta||USA||Andretti Autosport||+ 0.017|
|3||2||Josef Newgarden||USA||Team Penske||+ 0.023|
|4||9||Scott Dixon||NZL||Chip Ganassi Racing||+ 0.080|
|5||5||Pato O’Ward||MEX||Arrow McLaren SP||+ 0.156|
|6||27||Alexander Rossi||USA||Andretti Autosport||+ 0.158|
|7||12||Will Power||AUS||Team Penske||+ 0.262|
|8||3||Scott McLaughlin (R)||NZL||Team Penske||+ 0.277|
|9||8||Marcus Ericsson||SWE||Chip Ganassi Racing||+ 0.327|
|10||7||Felix Rosenqvist||SWE||Arrow McLaren SP||+ 0.371|
You can see the full practice results here.