Qualifying Report: Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey
MONTEREY, Calif. (Sept. 18, 2021)—The AJ Foyt Racing team will have its work cut out for them tomorrow in the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
The optimism after yesterday’s practice where Sébastien Bourdais was 12th quickest in his No. 14 ROKiT Chevrolet (until his fastest lap was deleted due to the yellow coming out a couple seconds prior to his hitting the timing line) was replaced by disappointment after qualifying today.
“It started off pretty good yesterday,” said Bourdais, who will start 21st after posting a lap time of 1 minute, 11.97 seconds (111.935mph). “I thought the car was seemingly in the window, just needed a bit of grip and a bit less understeer. It seemed like there was potential from the work we did at the DIL (simulator). At least it correlated pretty well, the feel behind the wheel was very similar. Then we went back out this morning and picked up a massive amount of understeer which was really strange. Put the reds on and it didn’t really fix anything, so made very little changes for this afternoon, because for us the car has gone fairly oversteer between cold and higher track temps, and sure enough, we got loose on entry and really never recovered the front grip that we had in the center of the corners, so it became a very difficult car to drive. Unfortunately, it’s nowhere near good enough, so yeah, very disappointed.”
Dalton Kellett was fourth quickest early in this morning’s practice before he made contact with the barrier in Turn 4 which damaged the right side. Fortunately, the 28-year-old Canadian escaped injury. The K-Line Insulators USA crew made the repairs in time for Kellett to qualify, however he was at a disadvantage having lost most of the morning practice session.
“Not an easy session for us overall,” said Kellett who will start 27th. “It was obviously a scramble to recover from that hit in practice and the guys did a good job getting the car fixed up. Luckily it wasn’t too much damage and they were able to turn that car around quickly, so that was a good job by them. We tried to gamble and do reds-reds (tires) because we felt like without having the experience on reds from practice that would be a good move just to get some more time and see how those tires behave.
"The overall grip felt like it never came in and it was just kind of sliding around the whole time on the first set and then the second set, the same thing," Kellett continued. "Kind of loose in, quite a bit of understeer mid-off and kind of backed it off a bit to just put a lap together, but it just never really felt like the temps came up. Towards the end of the stint after the checkered going through (turn) 10, it felt like we were finally getting some load in the wheel, so maybe we could have gone a lap shorter on the first stint to do four on the second run probably would have been a better idea, but hindsight is 20/20. So we obviously have some work to do in the race but we’ve shown that we could have good race pace. Qualifying is still our crux, but we’ll have to make something happen in the race tomorrow.”
Colton Herta won his second consecutive pole at this track, having swept the card in 2019, the last time the NTT INDYCAR Series raced here. Alexander Rossi, Will Power, Alex Palou, Oliver Askew and Pato O’Ward rounded out the Firestone Fast 6.
Teams will have a 30-minute final practice tomorrow morning before the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey is broadcast on NBC starting at 3 p.m. ET.