Mixed reactions after IndyCar’s split session format at St. Pete

IndyCar’s attempts to create more on-track action for fans and more free space for its drivers was met with some strong opinions on whether it should continue at other road and street courses.

With the opening 75-minute session at the Firestone Grand Prix structured with a 20-minute window for all 27 drivers to lap the track before the field was split into alternating 10-minute sessions, the concept should have prevented the long periods of inactivity where teams have their drivers sit on pit lane and preserve sets of tires for select moments when the track is clear. The format change is only being trialed on Friday.

And with the series making one set of the faster green-banded Firestone alternate tires available for each car during the Friday session to perform qualifying simulation runs ahead of Saturday’s qualifying session, the Friday afternoon run was an important one for every driver.


But the random timing of red flags during some of those 10-minute blasts meant some drivers had limited or no time on the alternates, which will have a negative impact on the rest of their weekend.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Pietro Fittipaldi, a first-timer at St. Petersburg, had positives to offer about the format that was tested.

“I think it was good because for me, especially while learning the track, there was less of the traffic and people on out laps slowing me down,” he told RACER. “So for me, it was much better. The idea of the session was to do as many laps as possible. … I haven’t experienced it here without it, so tomorrow’s session will tell me what it’s like with all the cars out there at the same time.”

Arrow McLaren team principal Gavin Ward questioned the format’s need at anywhere other than the Chevrolet Grand Prix.

“I applaud us for trying something,” he said. “I think it’s only going [to be] worth doing at Detroit. What we suggested here was just to split into two groups and run two separate sessions. I think this was overcomplicated.”

Juncos Hollinger Racing co-owner Ricardo Juncos wasn’t a fan.

“I don’t like it much,” he said. “I think it’s a lot of stress. Right now, with the red flag, it hurst us with [driver Agustin] Canapino. We didn’t get a lot of time. We actually didn’t use the [Firestone] greens, so our lap times [are] pretty massively down. That’s the only chance for him before qualifying, so it screwed the whole thing.”

Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay had a range of takes to offer.

“I wasn’t pleased with the first 10-minute run,” he said “The second one was nice. But on the other hand, because it went red twice, I barely got a second run. We just got a lot less running in than we usually do. So for me, it was okay, because I’ve been here [in an IndyCar]. I think for [rookie teammate] Christian [Rasmussen who hasn’t], I think it would be better without it because it hits the rookies pretty hard because they need all the laps.”

ECR lead engineer Matt Barnes also saw the pros and cons of the format.

“It’s hard to get everything done, but it’s nice to know you’re gonna have a 10-minute break,” he said. “But this all depends on [when] the reds fall. If you get your laps in, you’re probably happy, but if you didn’t, you’re probably not. I can say it was more smooth than I thought it would be.”

Story originally appeared on Racer