O’Ward will start third, but told NBC Sports he is impressed by how much further forward the McLaren team is at this track than in 2022.
“I gotta say that the team arrived with such a good package for me compared to last year,” said O’Ward, who is seeking his fifth IndyCar win. “We truly started on the back foot last year, and we have a car to fight with tomorrow. I’m really happy with it from the first practice.”
But Felix Rosenqvist, who appeared to be in contention for pole position in Q2, will start eighth. He remarked: “It’s such small margins now, it’s just one little hit on the [rev] limiter. We played it safe, we went out early when the track was the most clear and did a good lap, and I don’t know if the track improved after that, but we’ve been strong all weekend, the car felt good.
“We just missed out by a couple of hundredths, so that sucks.”
Alexander Rossi, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet
Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images
Their new team-mate Alexander Rossi, who will be starting from the sixth row, added: “We had some issues yesterday and pretty much lost a day. We were playing catch-up today, we had some good moments. Round 1 was good, didn’t quite get the balance where we needed it for Round 2 unfortunately, and had a lockup on our second set.
“Ultimately I think it was a good recovery by the team, but some learning to do to take some steps forward.”
Most recent Indy 500 winner Ericsson said he had been “focusing a lot on qualifying” and that fourth place is a “great start to that.” But Ganassi teammate Palou described missing out on progressing to the Firestone Fast Six by 0.01sec as “painful.”
He went on: “That shows how close IndyCar is nowadays, which is super fun. I’m happy overall. We had a fast car since yesterday, the car was capable of advancing to the Fast Six, I just made a tiny mistake at Turn 10, and lost a lot there.
“We need to check the long runs in the warm-up and it should be a fun race for sure.”
Six-time champion Scott Dixon will roll off ninth when seeking his first St. Pete victory, but was left ruing a Turn 4 shunt in second practice.
“Definitely interesting day today, crashing in practice this morning,” he remarked. “Not too much damage which was great to get the car fixed.
“Went into qualifying with a few unknowns. We were the quickest in Q1, looking good in Q2, then we had a big balance shift on the last set of tires and just had a lot of understeer. We missed by a few hundredths and that’s frustrating as we’ll start ninth.
“The #9 is definitely a lot quicker than that. It’s been one of the those weekends where we miss by a little bit when it counted the most.”
Rookie Marcus Armstrong was reasonably satisfied with 13th but came close to making it out of Q1 on his IndyCar debut.
“Probably not the best scenario for us with the red flag at the end [of Q1, Group 1] with us not getting out there to do another lap. But the #11 was really good; it’s just the fine margins.”
Source : Motorsport.com