ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – When Romain Grosjean joined Andretti Autosport to take over the No. 28 DHL Honda, he believed it was a perfect match for his skill as a daring driver in the NTT IndyCar Series.
Grosjean put that racing prowess on full display in Friday’s only IndyCar Series practice session for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
The former Formula 1 driver, who has moved from Geneva, Switzerland to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, whipped his Honda around the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street course on the streets of Miami in 1:01.0525 for a speed of 106.138 mph.
“The car was performing well as we could see,” Grosjean said. “Obviously quite a bit of traffic out there, but nice to put in a lap, and we did a couple of test items to get a read. I think we’ve got a very, very strong baseline, but I think there’s a little bit more to come if we put it all together. Hopefully we can find that and have fun for the rest of the weekend.
“I think we know we’ve got a very strong team. We’ve got a very strong car. Up to us if we push each other.
“I think it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be exciting to learn from the other guys and also give some of my knowledge, but yes, I joined the team, and you never know what you’re going to get. But first run in Sebring last week just brought me that feeling that we were going to go have a good baseline, and that’s the case again today.
“We just need to keep working and make sure that every weekend we’re performing well.”
Grosjean’s speed was faster than his Andretti Autosport teammate and defending St. Pete IndyCar winner Colton Herta, who drove his No. 26 Honda to second place at 1:01.1567 (105.957 mph).
“For me, I picked up where I left off or brought it back where we left off from last year with the car,” Herta said. “It felt really good in the first session. Surprising amount of grip. No, it was all good for me.
“I thought the grip level was pretty good. I thought — at least for what I would imagine the balance would normally be for first run on a street course, it wasn’t like that. The front end was sharp, and traction wasn’t terrible.”
Two-time St. Petersburg winner Will Power of Team Penske was third at 1:01.2282 (105.834 mph) in the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet.
“The parity is so close,” Power said. “No one has an advantage. We’ve got the absolute everything out of this car you can possibly get out of it, so it’s come down to the smallest of details.
“It will be an interesting year. There are so many good guys that can win now. You cannot really predict every weekend who will be on pole or who will win and then also who really will be in the mix of the championship.”
Pagenaud, driver of the No. 60 Honda at Meyer-Shank Racing, was fourth at 1:01.3249 (105.667 mph).
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal rounded out the top five at 1:01.3683 (105.592 mph) in the No. 15 Honda.
There were 26 cars that hit the race course in practice. Rookie driver Tatiana Calderon was 26th at 1:03.7173 (101.699 mph).
There were 471 laps run in the 45-minute session. The field returns to the track for a 9 a.m. ET practice followed by knockout qualifying for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Saturday at 12:30 p.m. ET.