Four rounds launched. 10 miles (16.09 km) in just under 2’40”, alone facing the stopwatch, the walls of the most mythical oval in the world and its fears. The qualifying ritual for the Indianapolis 500 Miles, which will take place on May 28, has not changed for this 107th edition. The first part will be held this Saturday from 4 p.m. French time. Each of the 34 drivers entered will be entitled to one guaranteed attempt. Then, if the weather permits, some will be able to return to the track to try to improve their performance, either via the “normal” lane keeping their previous time, or by using the “fast lane”, priority but accepting to see their previous performance erased.
At the end of the day, the top 12 will get the right to challenge for pole position on Sunday and the last four will have to go through the stressful “last chance session” where the last will see their dream of participating in the event, which can only accommodate 33 cars, soaring like what Fernando Alonso had experienced in 2019.
The two French pilots entered, Romain Grosjean (Andretti) and Simon Pagenaud (Meyer Shank), appear before this perilous exercise without guarantee. During a truncated week of testing (Tuesday canceled due to rain), they sometimes shone but often found themselves in the middle of the standings. Like the Friday session, the “Fast Friday” (where the pressure of the turbos is boosted at the qualification level) where Grosjean took 19th place (374.9 km/h average for his best lap) and Pagenaud the 23rd (374.5 km/h).
Favorable position for Pagenaud, not for Grosjean
On the four-lap runs, more representative of qualifying, the former Formula 1 driver took 14th place and the winner of the event in 2019 20th. In both categories, it was the double winner Takuma Sato who proved the superiority of the cars of Chip Gani Racing, a team that already won last year with Marcus Ericsson (and author of the pole with Scott Dixon). The Japanese, freelancer for the team on the ovals this season, achieved an exceptional best lap, the fastest in practice since 1996 at 377.8 km / h. He will of course be one of the favorites for the pole.
For Pagenaud, hope can come from his position in the order of qualification. While the track heats up over the day and therefore offers less grip when the temperature rises, the Poitevin obtained the right (during the usual draw) to start 10th (he had been 30th in 2022). For Grosjean, who took full advantage of his fifth position last year to reach the top 12, it will be more complicated with 29th place this time.
Among the other unlucky ones, we note the presence of two Team Penske drivers (Scott McLaughlin, 32nd, Josef Newgarden, 34th). The only woman entered in the event, Katherine Legge (Rahal Letterman Racing) won’t have an easy time with her 31st place, just like the Argentinian rookie Augustin Canapinto (Juncos Hollinger), 33rd with his livery in the colors of his national team of football and his victories in the World Cup.